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Check it out, sucka! “Batman: Soul of the Dragon” coming soon to

Check it out, sucka! “Batman: Soul of the Dragon” coming to DVD, VOD

We just wish Dennis O’Neil were here to see this.

Bruce Timm takes the Dark Knight back to the 1970s for a supernatural-laden martial arts extravaganza in Batman: Soul Of The Dragon, the next entry in the popular series of the DC Universe Movies.

Set in the midst of the swinging 1970s, this Elseworlds adventure finds Bruce Wayne training under a master sensei. It is here that Bruce, along with other elite students, is forged in the fire of the martial arts discipline. The lifelong bonds they form will be put to the test when a deadly menace arises from their past. It will take the combined efforts of Batman, world-renowned martial artists Richard Dragon, Ben Turner, and Lady Shiva and their mentor O-Sensei to battle the monsters of this world and beyond!

Comics fans are well aware of Richard Dragon, who was created by Dennis O’Neil and James R. Berry in the novel Kung Fu Master, Richard Dragon: Dragon’s Fists (1974) under the pseudonym “Jim Dennis”. O’Neil later adapted the character for DC Comics in the comic book Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter, along with Ben Turner aka Bronze Tiger and Lady Shiva.

The ensemble cast features a core group of actors playing martial arts students-turned-heroes in David Giuntoli (Grimm, A Million Little Things) as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Mark Dacascos (John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, Iron Chef America, Hawaii Five-0) as Richard Dragon, Kelly Hu (Arrow, X2: X-Men United) as Lady Shiva and Michael Jai White (reprising his role from Arrow) as Ben Turner/Bronze Tiger. Their mentor O-Sensei is voiced by James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China, Blade Runner). Josh Keaton (Voltron: Legendary Defender; Green Lantern: The Animated Series) is featured as Jeffrey Burr, and additional voices are provided by veteran Voice Over actors Grey Griffin, Chris Cox, Erica Luttrell, Robin Atkin Downes, Patrick Seitz, Jamie Chung, and Eric Bauza.

Sam Liu (Reign of the Supermen, Batman: The Killing Joke) is Producer and Director of Batman: Soul Of The Dragon, utilizing a script by Jeremy Adams (Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge). Michael Uslan is Executive Producer. Bruce Timm (Batman: The Animated Series, Whisper, Superman: Red Son) and Sam Register are Executive Producers.

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation and DC, the feature-length animated film will be released by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Digital starting January 12, 2021, and on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack and Blu-ray on January 26, 2021. The film is rated R for some violence.

Dennis O’Neil: 1939-2020

Dennis O’Neil: 1939-2020

Dennis Joseph “Denny” O’Neil, the writer and editor who redefined the Batman, the Joker, Green Arrow, the Shadow, and the Question for the modern era; created or co-created R’as al Ghul, OPtimus Prime, Azrael, Leslie Tompkins, Madame Web, Richard Dragon, and Lady Shiva; and was a beloved contributor to ComicMix, has passed away at the age of 81.

He started his career in comics almost by accident, when Roy Thomas suggested that O’Neil take the Marvel writer’s test, which involved adding dialogue to a wordless four-page excerpt of a Fantastic Four comic. O’Neil’s entry resulted in Lee offering O’Neil a job. O’Neil had never considered writing for comics, and later said he’d done the test “kind of as a joke. I had a couple of hours on a Tuesday afternoon, so instead of doing crossword puzzles, I did the writer’s test.” He started with Millie The Model and Patsy Walker, but soon found himself writing Doctor Strange and Daredevil. He also started freelancing for Charlton Comics under the name Sergius O’Shaughnessy, and when editor Dick Giordano went over to DC Comics he brought Denny along, where he wrote the Creeper, Wonder Woman, Justice League of America, Green Lantern and Green Arrow, Batman, Superman, and the revivals of the Shadow, the Avenger, and Captain Marvel, now retitled to Shazam!

In the 80’s, he returned to Marvel for a spell, where he wrote Iron Man and put Jim Rhodes into the suit of armor, contributed to the creation of the Transformers, and edited Frank Miller on his two runs of Daredevil as well as writing the issues in between them, among many other things.

He returned to DC in 1986 to become the group editor of the Batman titles, as well as write The Question.

He didn’t limit his writing to comics, also writing at various times for Coronet, Show, Gentleman’s Quarterly, Ono, the Village Voice, News Front, Amazing Stories, High Times, Viva, Penthouse, Publisher’s Weekly, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Fantastic, Generation One, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Mike Shayne’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock, and Haunt of Horror; as well as television, both live-action (Superboy, Logan’s Run) and animated (Batman: The Animated Series); and various novels, including the exemplary Helltown.

He was widely honored by fans and pros alike, including Shazam Awards for Best Continuing Feature for Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Best Individual Story for “No Evil Shall Escape My Sight” in Green Lantern #76 (with Neal Adams), for Best Writer (Dramatic Division) in 1970 for Green Lantern, Batman, Superman, and other titles, and Best Individual Story for “Snowbirds Don’t Fly” in Green Lantern #85 (with Neal Adams) in 1971. He also won the Comics Buyer’s Guide Award for Favorite Editor in 1986, 1988, 1989, and 1996; a Goethe Award in 1971 for “Favorite Pro Writer” and was a nominee for the same award in 1973, received an Inkpot Award in 1981, and won a Haxtur Award in 1998.

He gave of his time to help teach the next generation of comics creators, teaching at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, writing The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics, and writing for ComicMix. He also sat on the board of directors of the charity The Hero Initiative, an organization devoted to helping comic creators in need, and served on its Disbursement Committee.

He was married to the lovely former Marifran McFarland, who passed away in 2017. He is survived by his son, Lawrence, and the industry which he forever changed.

Taking our cue from him, our Recommended Reading List for today is Denny’s columns. We’ll miss him.

Dennis O’Neil: Invisible Comic Books!

So look: we’re all part of the same whole, right? I mean, we can all trace our origins to the same big bang, between 13,000,000 and 14,000,000 million years ago, give or take a few calendar pages, so I shouldn’t have to perform mental/verbal gymnastics to convince you that radio drama has a relationship with comic book scripting, beyond the obvious, that both are what Stephen King calls story delivery systems.

But there may be a few gnarlys lurking in the crannies of bandwidth who present themselves as doubters. We shall let them continue gnawing on fish bones when I sweep you back some 68 (again giving or taking some of those pesky calendar pages — but much smaller calendar pages this time).

It’s me, there in the kitchen, standing on a chair so I can reach Mom’s white plastic radio which lived atop the refrigerator, also white and sometimes called the “icebox.” I was listening to – I was heeding – my programs. Superman. (Of course, Superman!) Captain Midnight. Buck Rogers. Tom Mix. (He was a cowboy, and of course we made room for cowboys.) These, and others I may be forgetting were after school shows, broadcast on weekdays between four and six.

I heeded them. Oh, yeah.

The radio stuff wasn’t all that was in my post-toddler portfolio. There were also the comic books and some weeks I got only one, largesse from Dad who picked it up along with milk for the family after Sunday Mass. Some weeks, though, I had a lot more than a single paltry comic to read. Every once in a while, often on a sunny afternoon, I collected my used comics, put them in a wagon and visited the homes of the other kid-comics readers in the neighborhood and, sitting on somebody’s porch, we’d trade: their used and maybe slightly torn comics for mine. Our books were never doomed to Mylar bags, to be hoarded like the contents of Uncle Scrooge’s vault. Our comics were only getting started! They were destined to extend their gifts of enchantment and delight into the future, to porches we had never seen and maybe even city blocks that would be new to us.

So, yes, I was a comics nerd before there were such things. But… except for the days when I went a’trading, I had only one new comic in a week. Pretty sparse diet of high adventure. But radio – Monday through Friday, exciting stories – and a bunch of them. Sure, they were continued but I didn’t mind that, and I didn’t know what the characters looked like (unless they also appeared in comics) but that was okay, too.

Better than okay. Not seeing the humans who belonged to the voices, I visualized them – you know, made them up in my head – and while I was at it, I imagined cars and planes and buildings and lots more. I imagined a world.

Pretty good training for a kid who would grow up to be a comic book writer.

Dennis O’Neil: The Big Fall Flick

Somewhere in the curly-edged annals of ComicMix – surely such annals must exist! – there must exist a piece I wrote…well, ya know, I’m not really sure when, exactly, I wrote it. A while ago, okay? My subject, or what I’ll assume was a crisp fall day, was how Labor Day has, gradually, over time, assumed the weight and character of what I think of as a real holiday – one that exists because it fulfills a need.

Christmas is a good example: light and fire and feasting combine to celebrate the return of the light after winter’s long gloom. Similarly, Easter: the return of planting season. Thanksgiving and the various fall harvest festivals: cutting and storing enough foodstuff to see the community through the forthcoming cold. All of these occasions and more are tied to nature’s rhythms and marked by change.

So how does Labor Day fit into all this? Well. A U.S. President named Grover Cleveland decided that we as a nation ought to take notice of the contributions of the American working men the blue-collar Joes who created “the new world.” First Monday in September. From now on – Labor Day!” Thus declareth the Prez!

The Prez’s timing was good. Early September: the kids who worked on farms where pretty much done with the summer’s chores. Any family that could afford vacations had probably taken them by the time the leaves began to change. And there were the Big Holidays to brace for. (Where the hell did we store those tree lights?)

Those of us who got graduation documents – that’d be most of us – has busy Septembers. New classes and, ergo, new schoolmates, some of whom just might be cute. New teachers. New clothes. New sports. Streets spangled with decorations. Maybe some sliding and skating and all that other stuff.

And oh, let me not forget the television and the movies – the really honkin’ big films that seem to materialize in the hottest of summer and coldest of winter. Last year, the one we anticipated was Batman vs Superman and when I saw the name “Bill Finger” early in the credits, I thought this won’t be a complete waste of time. I’ll get some satisfaction from seeing Bill finally, after decades, get some of the credit due him. Then I watched the film.

This fall, I guess the Big Flick is Justice League. The story would seem to have some of the same narrative problems that beset Batman vs Superman. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, there’s some superhero stuff debuting/returning to the nation’s flat screened living room pals and that should suffice to keep us geeks from having withdrawal woes.

Dennis O’Neil: This Week

So there I was, rummaging through computerland seeking whatever might be interesting or amusing, and a news piece on Yahoo very briefly snagged my attention. Something about shooting and Las Vegas. Well, I didn’t have to read it because, even with such minimal information, I pretty much knew what it would tell me and I could get back to it later, which I did. Somebody with guns had massacred his fellow Americans.

Yep. Same old same old.

In the past, I’ve used this space to fulminate on the gun problem and I have really nothing to add. You could probably whip out your own fulmination, if you had a mind to. But don’t bother.

I did what a lot of you probably did, went about my day and eventually looked at the news channels and then the late-night talk shows and got as much lowdown on this particular atrocity as I’ll ever need. More, actually.

I found that what found most pertinent. Colbert pleaded with our lawmakers to do something… background checks, gun show licensing – something!

Meyers was edgier. He wants us to just stop kidding ourselves and tell the truth. A pattern has emerged from all the citizen gunplay. Somebody gets firearms and kills people. Then there’s a big fuss which wanes in a few news cycles and the gun lobby tells us that it’s too soon after the killings to discuss the matter and then somebody with a gun he or she shouldn’t have started firing… Same old. Meyers asks our politicians to please stop pretending that they’ll ever take meaningful action. It will always be too early to discuss guns and slaughters, so we should accept that this is the way things are and… I don’t know – go cry in a corner?

This is a scandalously short column and for that, I apologize. Next week we’ll get back to comics and maybe by then, I’ll actually feel like writing.

Dennis O’Neil: Who’s Reality Is This?

Look, over there – isn’t that Charlie Brown’s pal Linus, belly crawling through the pumpkin patch? No, not Linus, but somebody who’s awfully familiar. Let’s get closer and… Rats! Do you believe that?

It’s me, looking the way I look in photographs Mom used to keep in a chest of drawers – that is, like a skinny eight-year-old. And now I’m getting up, rising from the pumpkin patch like some pagan deity.

The question is, where will I be when I’m finally on my feet? Oh, the suspense is killing us! Okay, okay, maybe not killing us, but… I don’t know. Making us feel queasy?

Table that for now and have a look around. I’ve been here before, but when?

And suddenly I’m gobsmacked! Because I’m in the small store Dad and I stopped at after Sunday Mass that sold bread and milk and stuff like that and comic books and –  omygosh!, isn’t Superman #96? That’ll be worth a pretty penny on the collectors’ market.

Except that it won’t. In this reality, there are no collectors and so in this realty Supes 96 is worth the dime that is the asking price of most comics and… just exactly what is going on here?

The faithful among you may recall that some weeks back I mentioned “browsing” and sort of half-suggested that I might revisit the subject. Welcome to Revisitation Junction. And here we find young Dennis in progress, reaching for a copy of The Sub-Mariner and a cosmic page is turned – a cosmic reality that would be and our young time traveler

Is not so young and he’s still reaching for the Superman, but now the location is different; this store is very large and filled with all kinds of merchandise and the comic books are displayed on a wire rack that revolves and let us now pause and bow to the wondrous wire racks of my youth.

Brace for the turning of a cosmic page and –

Dennis doesn’t like where he is: what must be a bus depot in a large city. He’s wearing a Navy uniform (isn’t that a surprise!) The air stinks of cigarette smoke, the floor is encrusted with something black and probably lethal, and the comics in front of him are displayed in another wire rack, this one wide and flat, pushed against a wall. The whole scene is dirty and cold and depressing.

Join me in the turning of a cosmic page and –

Big contrast to the last destination. A very nice shop. Clean and well-lighted. Pleasant and comfortable. And full of comic books, some in foreign languages, and almost nothing else.

So. A shop that sells only comics. Has he somehow stumbled into some kind of science fiction?

What the heck! Maybe the best move is to go back to where it all started. Maybe this time he’ll run into Linus.

Dennis O’Neil: Weather Woes

Hurricane Irma is pretty much done wreaking havoc, but the worst of it is very bad. And it’s not over. Much of the hurricane season is yet to come and the weather might still have some nasty surprises for us.

And, of course, there’s always next year.

So let’s have a show of hands (lots and lots of hands): all who agree that Superman be confirmed as our official patron superhero? The more recollective among you may remember that I have mentioned this patron superhero stuff earlier: I can’t say exactly when, but sometime. If you are a practicing pagan, please pause on your way to hell while I define “patron saint.” According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, a patron saint is a person, having already transcended to the metaphysical, (is) able to intercede for the needs of their special charges.

Now, I don’t have a formal definition for “patron superhero,” but there’s no reason not to make one up if we have a mind to. After all, we can always change it later. Okay, a patron superhero is one whose life, persona and/or deeds can be identified with certain sort of problems and dangers to the common good. So maybe Captain Marvel – the one who changes from an overachieving youngster to a big dude in a red suit when he says “Shazam!” is the patron superhero of storms because a lightning bolt and a thunderclap accompanies the transformation. (The details of that transformation raise more questions than they answer. But back in his heyday, the post-war 40s, apparently nobody asked questions like that. At least nobody I knew.)

My suggestion that Superman be pronounced our patron superhero is not prompted by what Supes does – bend steel in his bare hands, change the course of mighty rivers, those riffs – but his identity. His true identity.

Surely you know the story. Kal-El is a scientist who insists that his home planet, Krypton, is about to blow up. Nobody believes him, and that nobody includes the savants and solons – the local authorities. Kal-El just manages to get his infant son into a spacecraft and into the sky when ka-BLOOEY! No more Krypton! But the kid makes it to Earth where he crash lands in the American Midwest, where the virtuous folk live. Stuff happens and eventually, the kid goes to a big city where he falls in with the executive of a printing company ad becomes a brand.

Here and now: we have had two category five hurricanes in the last month. Every weather-related catastrophe that has happened recently was predicted by scientists who warned us about Global Warming. And still, we hear from those who refuse to believe the evidence.

They should shut up.

Dennis O’Neil: The Killer Frost

Poor unfortunate Caitlin Snow – not only was The Flash favorite transformed into super-villain Killer Frost but now her latest love interest has gone and vanished.

Actress Danielle Panabaker said: “Here’s the one thing I will say about Caitlin’s relationship with Julian last year – I think he was more into her than she was into him. She was dealing with so much personal stuff, so much turmoil, as she was learning about her powers. So I think it’s a loss for the show and for Team Flash, but I don’t know that Caitlin feels Julian’s absence as deeply as she felt, for example, [her late fiancé] Ronnie’s absence.

The above I plucked, more or less at random, from a computer news column. If you didn’t happen you see this particular item, or you did see it and decided it wasn’t worth any time or effort (and I’ve been meaning to speak to you about your attitude, young man!) but even if this item missed you, you’ve certainly read stuff like it, especially if you’ve ever taken and English Lit. Class (and who among us hasn’t?)

Allow me to elucidate.

The paragraph I quoted reports on an interview with Danielle Panabaker, a charming young actress who portrays a scientist on a television series based on a long run of printed comic books titled – some of you may have guessed this – The Flash.

Allow me a digression. I once had a friendly dispute with a book editor over the proper usage of an article in proper nouns. Since, in this and similar cases, (The Green Hornet, The Lone Ranger etc.) the article – “the” – is a part of the character’s name and not just a minor element of a sentence, it merits – nay, demands – the same treatment – courtesy? – as the bulkier sections of the character’s name. It’s all part of the same thing, really.

That is, it is part of a signifier for a person who has never really existed. This “Julian” is a construct fabricated from several people’s imagination – primarily actors and writers – plus computers and ink and, since we’re talking television here, bandwidth and assorted electronic voodoo hoodoo and such. So, when Ms. Parabaker opines that “I don’t know that Caitlin feels Julian’s absence as deeply” as she felt another character’s absence… well, lovely Ms. Panabaker, no she doesn’t. Because neither she nor Julian exist, not the way you and I and Washington politicians exist: you know – flesh and blood and tax bills and all that kind of good stuff. Any thoughts and/or feelings not present on a script, placed there by a member of the Writers Guild (who is, no doubt, a master of exposition) just… isn’t – not so far as the fabrications we’re blathering about are concerned.

We can’t blame the television folk. I think he tends to treat fictional beings as fact goes back a long way – maybe a long, long way.

Any harm? I don’t know, but there is, I think, just maybe, this behavior encourages us to accept on faith what we’re told without knowing that we’re accepting or questioning anything. We’re generally unaware of the air we breathe.

And didn’t I mention politicians a few paragraphs back?

Dennis O’Neil: Browsing Around

I’m guessing that comics began edging into my toddling into our flat when I was somewhere just north of infancy: five, six, somewhere in there. Paperbacks, though – different story. The first modern paperbacks weren’t published until 1935, just four years before I burst, noisily, into my parents’ existence. So, the publishing venue and I arrived at approximately the same time and we’ve both been around ever since. Mass market comics, the kind that printed original material, joined the party in 1938, a year before I did and lo and behold, there we are, comics, paperbacks and me, all growing old together.

Later, after I’d moved to a metropolis that hosted a relatively large number of bookstores, I would browse: enter the shop and just patrol the aisles, maybe lingering a bit in the science fiction and detective sections. (There were no comics sold in regular book stores – not yet. And the comic shops, the kind we know and love, we as yet unborn.) Sometimes I would even – o thrill! – buy something.

Then: something new, a new place for browsing – video stores. I’d been aware of them, these new browsing sites, pretty early on, I guess. I lived in a hip neighborhood and the nearest video renter gave discounts to writers and artists and if you think that Scrooge O’Neil would ever pass up that kind of sweet deal, well… Then a friend introduced me to some really big video places in Brooklyn – I’m taking seriously bigand there I was again, on the browsing trail.

End of story?

You know better than that!

We weren’t done with browsing, we children of the war, but our technique evolved. We began to do it, some of it anyway, with no wear and tear on our sneakers. Oh, don’t put it past me to half-kneel and check the titles on the lower shelves, but these days I’m more likely to have entered the store in search of the coffee counter than to buy books, which are more likely to arrive via electronics. So, yeah, we shop from the couch, in front of a computer screen like the one you’re looking at.

All done?

Not yet. One more venue should be acknowledged. It does not allow you to own something you want, it allows you to rent movies and television shows and maybe sports. It dwells somewhere in the vast cosmos of television land and I reach it by using something called a Firestick, though you may employ another modern miracle to do the job. And after Mari retires for the night, I sometimes sink into the couch and, yes, browse the hundreds of entertainment and information listings Firestick makes available.

Maybe next week we’ll say something about the content of those listings. No promises, though.

Dennis O’Neil: Deadlines and Ducks

My old friend Danny Fingeroth has nothing to do with the subject of this column, at least I don’t think he has, but we are at the beginning and, you never know maybe some absolutely brilliant idea will occur any second now, an idea with Danny’s name graven on it in fiery letters as big as the cosmos, in which case, I guess, that’s what’d I’d write about.

Hey idea, I’m waiting.

Okay, to hell with you, idea.

And onward. I wanted to get in touch with Mr. Fingeroth because he often knows things I don’t and I wanted to fact-check myself on an assignment that I blew (I think) but I don’t care to scramble names/dates and such. We are, by thunder, in the truth telling business here, citizens (and therefore are not qualified for a job in politics. We’ll live with it.) The immediate problem here is, I want to telephone Danny and people don’t always instantly answer emails and so communication by computer is iffy, leaving the alternative of the phone. But I’ve misplaced Danny’s Rolodex card. Just like me!

Do we have a topic yet, or are we just blathering?

Okay, if the cupboard is bare open the pantry.

What I was hoping to get confirmed by the encyclopedic Mr. F was an article being prepared by another magazine, the ancient kind made of paper and ink (though I do think it has a web presence and don’t I wish that Dan was here to confirm that?!) The editor of this publication was seeking anecdotal information about deadlines and, having been dueling with deadlines on and off since I was a wet-behind-the-ears journalist back in southeast Missouri I thought, sure, I can knock out volumes of copy – both pro and con – about deadlines, so clear the way to the computer!

But I didn’t. One reason might be that, as a general policy, we don’t sling mud in this venue and the ripest of my deadline tales would entail doing just that. Sure, I could and would omit proper nouns or use pseudonyms but my readers are extremely astute and would effortlessly see through such a paltry stratagem and probably think less of me for trying to perpetrate it. And the most egregious deadline flaunters, well…I’m sure others have stories, too, and don’t need mine.

Not that I myself am completely innocent in this matter. I once thought I was and mentioned this in a conversation with the late and beloved Archie Goodwin who was my editor at the time. Archie gently rectified me. I was, indeed, a chronic deadline misser. I always got assignments done in time to keep their dates with the presses, but I was not as prompt as, living in a fool’s paradise, I believed I was. I was, in short, a dumb cluck.

And here we are almost 500 words into whatever this is and still no topic. Feh! And cluck cluck cluck!