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Against all odds, the novelization trudges on.

Against all odds, the novelization trudges on. (photo)

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Five years ago, Grady Hendrix posed a valid question at Slate: could the novelization — that shoddy paperback staple in which underpaid writers struggle to turn the early draft of a screenplay into a tie-in paperback — survive into the DVD era?

After all, novelizations were all about sparking memories of a film fondly remembered, not one you have sitting on your shelf. Would there still be a demand for these most ephemeral pieces of cultural detritus?

Well, it’s 2010 and good news (I guess): the novelization is still with us, though where the demand for them is coming from is baffling. So many films now come from graphic novels that are readily available or can be re-issued as tie-ins. Hence, there were no novelizations for “The Losers” or “Kick-Ass,” which — considering their commercial failure — is probably just as well.

There was, sadly, no novelization for the new “Nightmare on Elm Street,” thereby breaking a proud, previously unbroken lineage (even “Freddy vs. Jason” had one).

06222010_ironman2.jpgThat brings us to summer’s first big behemoth, “Iron Man 2.” Here no chances were taken: there are umpteen books of all varieties. There are comics, sticker books and yes, a proper mass-market paperback, yours for a mere $5.99 (a bargain in this day and age). There are no excerpts available for perusal, but Amazon reviewer “Wayfarer4” notes that it “dwells far more heavily on making comic book technology sound feasible, without simplifying it with the standard science fiction technobabble,” which seems to confirm that most of the good stuff in the movie — the smartass repartee and back-and-forth — was made up on the spot.

Such is not the case with the would-be blockbuster that came the next week, “Robin Hood,” adapted by David B. Coe, winner of “the William L. Crawford Award for his first series, The LonTobyn Chronicle.” The opening pages of this novelization are available for perusal, and the opening raises questions about what could be understated about the scent of 100 fires going simultaneously:

From within the brooding shadows of Broceliande Forest, Robin Longstride could see the pale colors of dawn touching the morning sky; glimpses of pearl and pink and pale yellow sifted through branches and leaves… If not for the subtle scent of a hundred cooking fires lingering in the wood, and the faint murmur of a thousand voices not too far off, it would have been easy for Robin to forget he was at war.

There are umpteen books for “Shrek Forever,” many of the primary reading variety. There’s a “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” tome written in the form of an archeologist’s journal, which I suppose shores up the franchise’s basis in historical fact.

06222010_marmaduke.jpgThere are no “The A-Team” or “Killers” novelizations, sadly, though one for “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is forthcoming. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the “junior novel” version of “Marmaduke” (unnecessarily named, since there’s no adult novel to go with it), whose infinitely sketchy writing brought me much joy. From the opening:

Marmaduke the Great Dane yawned as he wandered into the kitchen, where his family was already eating breakfast. In the corner, Carlos, a fluffy Russian blue cat, was eating kibble out of his food bowl.

Marmaduke’s bowl was next to Carlos’s, and it was full of leftovers.

Waffles, he thought in satisfaction. Gotta love Debbie!

“‘Sup,” Carlos greeted Marmaduke.

“Hey, man,” Marmaduke replied. He thought his stepbrother, Carlos, was pretty cool for a cat. Which was good, since Carlos was basically his only friend.

That’s actually more character development than the comic strip’s shown in its entire lifespan. The author, J.E. Drake, is a go-to kiddie novelizations guy whose resume includes “Kung Fu Panda: The Secret of the Scroll” and the “Care Bears” book “What Makes You Happy?”

If that’s not enough reading material to fuel your summer, let me direct you to this “Transformers” short story by Alex Irvine, writer of a prequel novelization called “Exodus.” Sample: “The six Autobots gathered around a map display of the area stretching from the Well of AllSparks north almost as far as the pole, where the ruins of Six Lasers Over Cybertron lay, and east to encompass Iacon and the contested territories toward Nova Cronum.” Happy reading y’all!

[Photos: “E.T.: The Book of the Green Planet,” Berkley Publishing Group, 1985; “Iron Man 2,” Paramount, 2010; “Marmaduke,” 20th Century Fox, 2010]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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