Tagged: Catwoman

Mike Gold: Batman Resurrected

Michael KeatonNo, that’s not the title of the next Batman movie. Well, it might be. I suspect Warner Bros. hasn’t thought that far ahead. They’re too busy trying to make their Aquaman movie without giggling themselves to death.

A couple nights ago I was watching Batman Returns – you’ll recall that was Michael Keaton’s second and final Batflick. At the time of release, which was 1992, I thought it was an uneven movie. By and large, I liked the Catwoman stuff but I thought the Penguin parts were… foul. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen the movie, so when I surfed past it at a quarter-to-two in the morning, I thought it might be fun to check it out with my older and even more jaded eyes.

I was amused to discover the movie was broader than I remembered, but just as dark. It was almost as if Stanley Kubrick made the movie as a tribute to the 1960s teevee show. The Catwoman scenes weren’t as strong as I remembered, the Penguin scenes were better acted (but no better realized) than I thought, and the scenes with Michael Keaton that didn’t include either villain were, by and large, really good.

So what happened in the past 22 years? Certainly most of us enjoy the avalanche of Marvel Studios movies, the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe that, properly, excludes Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. But the tone and texture of the DC Movie Universe should differ from the tone and texture of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, just as your average DC Universe comic book differs from its Marvel counterparts – when done right.

(Yes, you read that right: I referred to the DC movies as a separate “Universe” from the DC teevee shows for one simple reason: they are separate. Completely separate. Needlessly and confusingly separate.)

So… what changed? Batman Returns really isn’t dated. Why would I be so taken with Keaton’s work this time around?

One word. Birdman.

You know the concept: an on-the-ropes actor best known for his playing a costumed superhero on the big screen tries to resurrect his career and give his life meaning by directing and starring in a Broadway play. For this effort, Keaton has been awarded top acting honors from the Screen Actors Guild, BAFTA, the Independent Spirit Award, the Satellite Award (from the International Press Academy, not to be confused with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Golden Globes) and the AACTA International Award for Best Actor – that’s the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts.

Keaton has also received an Oscar® nomination for Birdman, in a particularly tough category this year. “It’s an honor just to be nominated…”

I always liked Keaton, and he really knocked me over in Clean and Sober. But Birdman surpasses his previous efforts because he knows we will conflate his character with his career. He relies that pre-existing relationship, and he pulls it off magnificently.

I don’t think Keaton’s career has been on the ropes, but it was no longer as high profile. I suspect he liked it that way. But, post-Birdman, he is an A-Lister once again. And this is strictly because he decided to do Batman in the first place – and because he thought it over and appreciated what that meant to both him and his audience.

All top-drawer superhero actors age… with a few unfortunate exceptions. The plot to Birdman is all about what you do with yourself after you shed your tights. Keaton figured it out.


(“Oscar” is a registered trademark of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, so watch your ass.)


The Point Radio: Donal Logue Thrives In GOTHAM

Donal Logue is Harvey Bullock in the new Fox series, GOTHAM and he has a lot of say about it,  including how this compares to his previous roles and what it’s like to be part of a story where everyone already knows the ending. Plus, it’s the 60th Anniversary for The Guinness Book Of World Records, with a ton of new wacky entries and some old ones that may never be broken. Ever wonder how it all began? We go right to the source to answer that and more.

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE on ANY mobile device (Apple or Android). Just  get the free app, iNet Radio in The  iTunes App store – and it’s FREE!  The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE  – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

The Law Is A Ass


103241-100705Technically, we can’t call Batman a “white hat” hero. Even back in the 50s in his brightest days his hat – er cowl – was blue. But back then his actions were noble. He was and acted like a white hat hero, even if his headgear didn’t match.

Now, however, his hat is somewhere between dark gray and black. And his actions frequently trend even darker. Like in Catwoman # 29.

Now before you go further, I should issue a customary SPOILER WARNING, because I’m about to give away more than you could have wanted to know about the plot to Catwoman # 29, unless what you wanted to know was how it ended. If that’s what you want to know, then keep reading, because that’s what you’re about to get.

In this story Catwoman was attending a large black-tie publicity party being held by Taylor Pharmaceuticals. The purpose of said party was two-fold. The first was to celebrate the imminent launch of MR-40, a chemotherapy drug with minimal side effects that will revolutionize cancer treatment. The second was to celebrate the fact that WayneTech , which wanted in on the ground floor of MR-40, just purchased Taylor Pharm for 30 million dollars and the CEO was about to ride a golden parachute into the Caribbean sunset.

Now I have no problem with any of that; at least not in so far as it involved a legal problem. There was none. I do think 30 mill seemed a bit cheap for a big pharm company that was about to revolutionize cancer treatment. A few more zeroes to the left of the decimal point would seem the more likely asking price. In 2000, the Cleveland Indians, a team that wasn’t revolutionizing much of anything – including bringing an actual championship to Cleveland, sold for 320 million dollars. If a mere baseball team was worth 320 million in 2000 dollars, imagine what a big pharm company that was about to revolutionize cancer treatment would be worth in 2014 dollars? Were I the shareholders of Taylor Pharmaceuticals, I’d would have preferred that Taylor Pharm swallowed a poison pill rather than sell for chump change and would have wanted the heads of the Board of Trustees in a silver mortar.

But undervalued sale prices is not why we’re here. We’re here because of what happened next.

What happened next was that Catwoman used her cat burglar skills to break into the Taylor Pharm R&D department and steal the prototypes of MR-40 and something called ADR-17. Stealing prototype drugs was a little out of Catwoman’s usual M.O. Taking jewelry or art was more her usual line, but someone had hired her to get the MR-40 for him.

Everything was going smoothly until the lab’s security alarm went off as Catwoman was taking the vials of said prototype drugs and some poor schlub of a security guard confronted her with his gun drawn. Catwoman had been hired to steal the MR-40 and ARD-17 prototypes and deliver the MR-40 to her employer. Her employer told her to smash the vial of ARD-17, although he didn’t say how. So, as a distraction, Catwoman threw the ARD-17 at the guard. Who promptly turned into a New 52 version of the Incredible Hulk, except that he was flesh-colored and couldn’t even manage the vocabulary complexities of, “Hulk smash!”

The fight which ensued between Catwoman, the hulked-out guard and the other security guards who answered the alarm spilled out into the party. (Seriously, the Taylor Pharm party ballroom was on the same floor as the R & D labs? That didn’t seem like a security, and maybe even health, hazard to anyone?) Taylor security subdued the security guard with seven doses of a sedative then tried to capture Catwoman, but she made her escape by diving out of a window on the 27th floor.

Catwoman scampered off to deliver the MR-40 to her employer. Those of you who were wondering where and how Batman comes into this story will probably not be too surprised to learn that Batman was Catwoman’s employer. He hired her to steal the MR-40 as a distraction. Her real mission was to smash the vial of ADR-17, which was an experimental steroid offshoot of Venom. (No, not the Spider-Man villain but the DC super-steroid which powers up Bane. (No, not Mitt Romney’s company, but…) So that explains why when ADR-17 hit the security guard, he didn’t just grow like Topsy, he growed like Topsy on… Well, on steroids.

Anyway, Batman decided that a newer, more powerful version of Venom was too dangerous to exist. So while Catwoman was stealing the drugs and destroying the only physical sample of the steroid, Batman was wiping the formula and all of the ADR-17 research files off of the Taylor Pharmaceutical computers and servers.

Tomorrow, the new owner of Taylor Pharmaceuticals, Bruce Wayne, would reassign all the people working on ADR-17 to work on restoring MR-40 and, he hoped, no one would even notice that the experimental steroid was missing. Although given what happened to the security guard, someone is probably going to suspect something. But that’s why Batman also set off the security alarm, so that the guards would see a masked cat burglar stealing prototype drugs and assume she made off with both the MR-40 and the ADR-17, too.

Now I’m not a ruler-wielding nun in a parochial school, I don’t even play one on TV. But if I were, I’d probably tell Batman he needed a time out to think about what he had done.

What had he done? Well, he hired Catwoman to break into a research lab and steal the prototype of a valuable new chemotherapy drug, that’s what he’d done. And what laws did he break by these actions? You know my methods, apply them.

But to point you in the right direction, you might remember that Gotham City is supposed to be somewhere in New Jersey and start with the New Jersey statutes governing conspiracy, complicity (or aiding and abetting, as those of us who aren’t fancy-word-slinging state legislators call it), burglary, theft, and assault. That should be enough to let you hit the ground running.

I’m not concerned with the crimes Batman committed, however. I’m more concerned that in order to stop development on a new steroid, a potentially dangerous new steroid I admit, he interfered with the development of a new chemotherapy drug for the treatment of cancer. Even if Batman’s actions only delay the development of said drug by, say, a week, that’s one week later that said drug will come onto the market. And, because we’re talking about a drug designed to fight and control the spread of cancer, even one week could mean that several people might die, who would not have died if said drug had been delivered to the market one week earlier.

Batman, or Bruce Wayne but for our purposes what’s the difference, was about to take over Taylor Pharmaceuticals. He could have ordered all work on ADR-17 to stop. He could have ordered that all files on ARD-17 be destroyed. He could have….

Well, he could have done lots of things. Surely there were other ways that Batman could have arranged for work on ADR-17 to stop without potentially endangering the lives of untold cancer patients.

Batman’s actions were callous, uncaring and, frankly, mean. And, in this case, I’m not sure that the ends – destroying ADR-17 – justified the mean.

Mindy Newell: Truth, Justice, And The American Way

Catwoman“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” – Maya Angelou

I read John Ostrander’s column yesterday with interest. (I always read John’s columns and love them.) Then I went to the Wall Street Journal’s website and read Chuck Dixon and Paul Rivoche’s essay.

Well, John, to a certain extent I have to agree with Chuck and Paul. It’s one thing for us, as adults, to read comics with an adult slant – meaning moral ambiguity in both our heroes and our villains. But I do think that for younger readers, the children and pre-teens (and, I suppose, depending on their maturity, some teenagers), it’s important that the heroes do act ethically and morally. They (Superman, the X-Men, Captain Marvel, Batman, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, Daredevil, et.al.) are, not to put too fine a point on it, cultural icons…and besides, all kids need heroes to look up to – with a sense of wonder, with awe, with a desire to “be just like him/her when I grow up.”

And when their heroes fall, children are upset; they don’t understand adult haziness, they live in a black-and-white world.  I remember when Lawrence Taylor (of the New York Giants and considered the greatest linebacker in NFL history) was arrested for cocaine use. “L.T.” was one of Alixandra’s heroes, and when she heard the news – we were in the car listening to the radio – she said to me, “How could he do that, Mommy?” And in her voice there was confusion and hurt and the sound of her hero crumbling into dust.

And I was angry. At that moment I hated Lawrence Taylor. In one second he had destroyed a part of my daughter’s innocence. And I thought of all the other kids out there who had looked up to him and now, just like Alix, were asking their parents how and why and I bet those parents felt just like I did.

Now I am not one to hide the facts of life from children. I always tried to be as honest as I could be with my daughter when she asked any and all questions. And certainly, Alixandra, as a child of divorced parents, already knew that the world was not a bed of roses.

But I also believe that in a world that grows uglier by the minute – I just saw a statistic on MSNBC’s Up with Steve Koracki that there have been 74 school shootings since Newtown in 2012 – it’s more important than ever that kids have heroes.

It doesn’t matter if their heroes are fictional creations. Harry Potter, Buffy Summers, Katniss Everdeen, Percy Jackson, Matilda Wormwood, Lyra Belacqua and characters from the pages of books have captured the imagination of – and have served as inspirations to – children around the world. And it not as if their originators had fashioned perfect idols – all carry some resentment of being thrust into the hero’s role, but all also rise above their individual desires and accept the responsibility that fate has thrust upon them. Harry Potter realizes it is up to him alone to conquer Voldemort. Katniss Everdeen faces up to her leadership of the rebellion against Panem. And Buffy Summers comes to understand that “death is my gift” in her fight to save her sister and the world from the god known as Glory.

The writer has the responsibility to know his or her audience, to know for whom s/he is writing. As the cast of Buffy got older, and as the fans of the show aged along with them, Joss Whedon allowed the stories to become more complicated, to reflect the journey into adulthood that the characters, and the fans, were experiencing. Whedon also did this when he spun off Angel from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Aiming for a more mature (read: adult) audience, the show nuanced both the main character and its perspective; there was less black-and-white, and a lot more grayness, especially as the show progressed through its five seasons. On Buffy having a soul equaled good, not having a soul equaled bad – but on Angel, having a soul didn’t necessarily make the vampire “good” – in fact, as the show progressed, Angel’s goodness became more and more a matter of degrees, became more “adultly” ambiguous. The support cast, Cordelia and Gunn and Wesley (especially Wesley!!) and the others also shifted from simple classifications to complex characterizations.

As a writer I have always been aware for whom I’m writing. I like to write for what the publishing industry calls “YA,” or the young adult market – teenagers and those in their early twenties. Certainly I have written my share of “dark” stories – in fact, that’s where my story inclinations tend to take me – but I’ve always tried to put something in there that indicates hope, even if it’s only a sliver of light, i.e., the characters have progressed to a better place. In what I think is my blackest tale (Lois Lane: When It Rains, God is Crying), a story of child abuse, abduction, and murder, and one in which there is no “happy ending,” Lois learned to let down the walls she had built around herself, learned to let her friends and family in.  And in Catwoman: My Sister’s Keeper, Selena’s “sister,” the child prostitute Holly, is taken off the streets and into in locos parentis custody by Selena’s real sister.

But I’ve also written stories for younger people in which heroes have no feet of clay.  One such story was “With Love, From Superman, a back-up in Action Comics Vol. 1, No. 566 (April, 1985).  In the story, preteen Molly Richards wants Superman’s autograph and dreams that she is Supergirl and Lois Lane – until the real Superman shows up to give her a surprise.

Of course I get that the world has changed drastically even in the short time since Alix was a child. Today’s kids are inundated with 24-hour news and factoids on the television and on the web; even when their parents do their best to shield them, their children will still hear about something at school or at their friends’ houses – it just seeps into the zeitgeist. I get that the parents have to talk to their children about things that are ugly and scary and way too “grown-up” for them…

I just believe that it’s incredibly important to keep “once upon a time,” along with “truth, justice, and the American way,” in the mix, for as long as possible.

There’s plenty of time for the corruption of their values.


Box Office Democracy: “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”

Movies based on comic books have had to fight a practically never-ending battle for respectability but, for now at least, it seems that they’ve won.  Superheroes are hot commodities at the box office and studios have embraced the idea that making them more like their source material is preferable to making movies that anger the core fanbase for an attempt to appeal to the mainstream.  The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is what happens when that faithfulness goes too far and instead of making a simple movie filmmakers try and cram in all of the ancillary subplots of an ongoing series with none of the capacity to pay any of those threads off.


Eclipso – A Dark and Shadowy History

Eclipso_OriginDan Didio has written the latest iteration of the character for Villains Month, part of the new Forever Evil crossover event.  It ties up a plot arc that’s been weaving through the New 52 books since their inception – the villain’s black diamond has appeared in the short-lived Team 7 title, as well as Catwoman Demon Knights and even Sword and Sorcery. So clearly his return is intended to be a big one.

But this isn’t the first time DC has tried to make Eclipso into a top-echelon threat. Not by a long length.

People go on about how many times Aquaman has been revamped, but I gotta tell you, I think Eclipso has him beat.  Originally a sort of Jekyll-Hyde pastiche, he was released from within scientist Bruce Gordon whenever he was caught in the shadow of an eclipse.  Fortunately, eclipses are rather rare, so the character almost never appeared…oh, wait…ah, I’m being told that he could also appear under the shadow of an artificial eclipse, like a tea tray being used to block the light of a sunlamp.  Well, that certainly changes things.

He had a run in House of Secrets that got reprinted quite a bit in the wonderful years of the 100-page Super-Spectaculars, where people my age got most of their knowledge of the golden age and early silver age of comics.  He re-appeared on occasion when they needed a relatively generic and replaceable villain – he showed up in the Metal Men book as a Big bad, for pete’s sake.

It was with Eclipso: The Darkness Within that they first tried to make him into a major player.  Eclipso was now a major force of evil, hidden on the dark side where he secretly tried to control and destroy the shards of a massive black diamond, the Heart of Darkness.  But a visit by Lar Gand (Not the Legion’s  Mon-El, but the post-crisis version…look, just read my history of the character if you feel the need to catch up) gave Eclipso the idea to use the diamonds to possess the heroes of Earth, just as he’d used the first/original shard to possess Gordon.

The series did well and spawned a Eclipso title, one of the few times a villain carried a book.  Bruce Gordon was now being played as the Van Helsing to Eclipso’s Dracula, the Nayland Smith to Fu Manchu.  The book didn’t last all that long, and Eclipso sank back into the mid-card.

ComicMixer John Ostrander got ahold of him during his exemplary run on The Spectre, and the history changed again.  Not merely a demon of evil, Eclipso was in fact God’s first tool of Wrath, before The Spectre.  Eclipso, it’s explained, cause the biblical Flood at God’s behest.

This version of Eclipso returned a number of times, possessing Superman, taking Alex Montez as a host in a great arc in JSA, and most controversially, taking over Jean Loring, who was in quite a state after the events of Identity Crisis.

But in there, we got another version of his origin.  Now it’s explained that the black diamonds came from Apokalips, and Eclipso was created by Darkseid.  That was one of those changes that turned vast gouts of the past of the character into the rubbish heap, and it was not taken well by fans.

The New 52 has seen fit to bring the character back to his “god of vengeance” position, though his connection to God has not been re-confirmed.  With a number of appearances in several books, it’s a thread that has been in place for about all of the New 52.   Dan Didio, who did a very good job with the first few issues of Phantom Stranger, does a good job here summing up the latest new history of the character, and making clear how big a threat he can be.  Another small change – Bruce Gordon has now become “Gordon Jacobs,” likely to make the name more different from its original in-joke sources, Bruce Wayne and Commissioner James Gordon. He’s now being portrayed as a disgraced scientist, after an experiment with a solar-powered city goes terribly wrong.  This sets Gordon up to be tempted by Eclipso, as opposed to merely possesed against his will.  Like the spin made the the Phantom Stranger, it allows the character to be a bit more complex.

They’ve used Phantom Stranger to set up a couple other powerful Mystic characters – the first appearance of Raven was made there, though not mentioned by name, and that of her demonic father, classic Teen Titans foe Trigon, who also received a Villains Month issue.

Whether Eclipso will be a major player in Forever Evil, or if he’s being set up for an even later use is unsure.  But with the amount of time they’ve spent into setting him up, there are clearly big plans for the character.

Mindy Newell: Four-Color Valentines

Newell Art 130211DC released Young Romance this week, using the title of one of the overlooked and (imho) underappreciated gems of comics history, the seminal romance comic that was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby and was published from 1947 to 1975. I’m old enough to remember many of the stories contained within those pages; they were attuned to the morals of the times, and regularly told tales of unrequited love, of compromised love, and of love triumphant.

The characters were easily identifiable: there was the bad girl, the bad boy, the good girl, and the good boy.

The bad girl (think Betty Rizzo in Grease) smoke and/or drank, wore too much makeup and perfume, wore incredibly slinky dress that didn’t leave much to the imagination, preyed on other women’s men, and was quite free with her, uh, favors. Not that anything was ever shown except for kisses, but somehow Simon and Kirby – especially Kirby with his magnificent art – definitely got the message across of what followed that forbidden kiss off-panel, even to a young and innocent girl like me.

I always rooted for the bad girl.

The bad boy (think Johnny Strabler in The Wild One) smoke and/or drank, rode a Harley or drove a wicked muscle car with fins, wore a leather jacket with a one-size-too-small undershirts and jeans, had a ducktail and a comb, dropped out of high school and worked at the gas station, and was always hot for the good girl.

I always wanted the bad boy.

The good girl was a secretary or a librarian or a nurse or a high school senior or a college freshman. She wore modest clothes and flats, pink lipstick, no jewelry except for her grandmother’s pearls, and never smoked or drank.

She was so boring.

The good boy was a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer or the BMOC (big man on campus) or the high school football team’s star quarterback. He wore a suit and tie or chinos and a windbreaker, never showed body hair, and always obeyed the speed limit in a Chevrolet or Oldsmobile – definitely your father’s car – and above all respected the good girl and would safely see her to the door after a date and say good night with a chaste kiss, saving “the act” for the marriage bed.

No thanks.

My preference for the “little bit of naughty” also made me veer towards those characters in the superhero world, caped and non-, that I imagined had some, uh, good times, when not saving the world.

I think Adam Strange’s relationship with Alanna moved quite quickly into intimacy, even before they were married. After all, Adam could not control when the Zeta-beam would either take him to the planet Rann or return him to Earth, so there was no time like the present, right? Though I do hope that that damn Zeta-beam didn’t snatch Adam away right at wrong time, if you know what I mean, for Alanna’s sake.

Certainly Sun Boy, a.k.a. Dirk Morgana, was an out-and-out roué: check out a little story called Triangle in Legion Of Super-Heroes #320, February 1985, a tale I dialogued over Paul Levitz’s plot, with artwork by penciler Dan Jurgens, inker Karl Kessel, letterer Adam Kubert, and colorist Shelly Eiber. But I always had a thing for Rokk Krin, a.k.a. Cosmic Boy. Maybe it was the black hair and the blue eyes, but there was just something about Rokk – I knew he was not above stopping by the 30th century’s version of the Bada Bing or hitting on the boss’s wife. And succeeding.

I know the newest couple in comicdom is Kal-El of Krypton and Diana of Themiscrya, but the pairing of these two, the classic “good boy” and “good girl” of DC, just doesn’t float my boat, y’know. Now Diana’s mother, Hippolyta… that’s a woman whom I suspect walked a bit on the wicked side in her youth. She just too worldly just knows life, with all its ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies, too well. It’s in the way she holds herself, the way she talks, the way she rules.

Lana Lang may have started as a “good girl” in Smallville, but I think once she left home she had some fun. Getting over Superman throwing her over for Lois, she let the “bad girl” come out in college, cutting classes, never missing a beer bash, smoking the ganja, and saying yes to whoever asked. As an adult she may be the “sadder-but-wiser-girl,” but damn, the woman knew how to party.

And of course there’s Selena Kyle, who brings home the bacon and fries it up in a pan. Hey, the lady knows what she wants. I’d like to see her paired up with Wolverine, the “bad boy” of comics. Hard-drinkin’, hard smokin’ Logan hooking up with Catwoman.

Oh, yeah





Monday Mix-Up: Superhero Hockey!

Monday Mix-Up: Superhero Hockey!

Now that the NHL strike is over and hockey is back, who saved the season? Superheroes!

Playing for the heroes: Batman, Spider-Man, Rogue, Gambit, and Iron Man. Playing for the villains: Bane, Joker, Mystique, Catwoman, and Deadpool… and Commissioner Gordon as the referee!



Dennis O’Neil: Our Christmas Funnies

If memory serves – and how often does that happen? – I saw my first 2012 Christmas decorations in late summer. In Miami, maybe? At the merchandise mart that adjoined the convention hotel? Anyway, months before anything resembling the start of the Holiday Season, which seems to have climbed into the vicinity of Halloween.

(And are you now bracing for one of my hate-Christmas screeds? Am I preparing to validate Fox News’s diatribes against The War On Christmas, ho ho ho? Naw. Maybe next year.)

What I am wondering, though, is whether any of our comic book bretheren still produce the annual Christmas story. In fact, I’m wondering if they ever did. I know that I wrote at least a couple of them, two featuring The Dark Knight (ah, but was he a silent knight? a holy knight?) and a third, I think, starring one of his favorite adversaries, that feminine feline funster, Catwoman. Two of these were commissioned, produced by editorial fiat, and what the hell? We’re pros, right? Guy behind the desk says Christmas story and we say, how many pages and when? The other, a Batman, may have been my idea, or, more likely, it may have originated with My Favorite Editor, Julius Schwartz.

And, o holy holly, while typing the above, I forget the weirdest Christmas-Meets-Batman of them all: A Slaying Song Tonight. This eight-pager appeared in an anthology, Batman Black and White, and I’m pretty sure it was my idea to make the thing a Christmas story and if you insist on my telling you why, I’d guess that I hadn’t done a Christmas piece in a long time and I felt like revisiting old turf. Maybe I shouldn’t even mention this because it surely wasn’t an annual anything: rather it was, as they say in the British publishing dodge, “a one-off.”

(An oddity concerning Batman Black and White: the book was conceived and edited by DC’s color editor, Mark Chiarello. And for those of you who haven’t seen it: yeah, every story in it was in black-and-white. And consider this a Recommended Reading. And finally, to end this windy digression – Mark, if Slaying Song was your idea, I apologize.)

Where were we…? Wondering if comics do Christmas stories anymore. Well, if they aren’t published, or if there are fewer of them than in days of yore, it may be because these stories, from Dickens onward, were focused on one day, a holiday, Christmas. Well, Christmas isn’t a day, not for a while now. A … what? Season? That’s closer. What it has evolved into, this Christmas, is something we don’t have a name for. Not yet. Shall we coopt a bit from an old Seinfeld and call it “festivus”? Or how about frumalackel? You like that – frumalackel? Sleep on it.

Frumalackel or Christmas, I’m not complaining. It is what it is – what it has become, and it is not wise to argue with reality, and so I won’t. Not this year.

Next year? Who knows?

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases


John Ostrander: No Man’s Land Redux

One of the interesting developments in the past few years in comics, for me, is that stuff you’ve done earlier in your career gets bundled together and re-packaged. That can be especially nice if you have some sort of royalty arrangement (or incentive or participation or whatever they’re calling it now) because you know that means that at some point the company will issue you a check. That’s like found money; any writing you did was done long ago and you were paid for it already.

That’s not to say the money is unearned. In my view, if the company is getting a second bite of that apple, so should the creators who did the work. Seems fair to me, although the companies have a history of not being fair. And they also usually give a copy or two or three of the volume for your own library. That’s good because I rarely can find my original copies of the work.

Recently, I got copies of the last two volumes of the gathered Batman epic No Man’s Land. Our resident legend here at ComicMix, Denny O’Neil, was editor on the books at that time and asked me to do the Catwoman issues tying into the saga. I really enjoyed working with the character and would’ve enjoyed playing with her more but the book was cancelled at the end of that series. Catwoman, however, has more than nine lives and has gotten her own title back at least twice since then.

I have to admit, however, that I wasn’t too crazy about the whole No Man’s Land concept at the time. The main idea was that Gotham City, following an earthquake and a virus outbreak just seemed in general to be too toxic to reclaim so the federal government declared it a … wait for it … No Man’s Land. The citizens were ordered to get out and those who chose to stay (or were unable to leave) were kept in when the bridges and tunnels to the city were blown up. Any attempt to escape (or get in, as I recall) was prohibited and that was enforced by the Army. Very Escape From New York (a really fun movie, by the way; is Batman the comics’ Snake Plisken?).

At the time I found the premise too far fetched for my tastes. Okay, the main character dresses up like a bat to run around to strike terror into villainous and cowardly criminals but, yes, I found the central premise of No Man’s Land a little over the top for me. Gotham City was a major city in DCU’s USA. No federal government, in my opinion, would just abandon it like that; there would be howls of outrage throughout the country. Every city, every state, would fear that the same would happen to them. It simply wouldn’t be allowed. No U.S. government would be that cruel. It wasn’t politically feasible in my view (and I come from Chicago and, believe me, I’ve seen lots of outlandish governmental behavior that turned out to be very politically feasible.).

And what’s happened since No Man’s Land first came out? Let’s start with Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans and poor people stuck in the city and the horror stories of living in the Superbowl and a federal government’s response that was inept and way too slow in responding. There were people then who argued that New Orleans should be abandoned. The devastation was too great and, besides, it was a wicked, sinful city and the hurricane was God’s punishment yadda yadda yadda. New Orleans still struggles in the aftermath.

Let’s look at Hurricane Sandy. Better federal response this time but, again, the devastation was so widespread and so pervasive that it will take years for the area to recover fully, if it ever does.

Let’s look at Washington, D.C. right now. A fiscal cliff looms, one that was created by government, and one that government should be able to solve. As I write this, the two sides have gotten entrenched in their respective positions and each side is waiting to see who blinks first. A quicker resolution would help the Christmas buying season and, oh, might also keep the U.S. credit rating from being lowered again, but I’m not betting they’re going to get it done by the January 1st deadline.

No Man’s Land no longer seems that farfetched to me. I may still have a quibble or two with certain plot elements but the central premise? No, that’s become all too believable Maestro O’Neil, I tender my apologies. “I was wrong and you was right,” as usual. I should never doubt you or underestimate just how perverse reality can get.

My, this crow is tasty!

MONDAY: Mindy Newell