Tagged: Dick Tracy

Joe Corallo: Joe Staton, Family Man!

Drew Ford has spent the last few years of his life dedicated to bringing classic out of circulation comics and graphic novels back in print in beautiful restored editions. A fierce advocate for creators such as Sam Glanzman, Drew has brought back multiple books of his work, a graphic novel from David Michelinie, another graphic novel from ComicMix’s own Denny O’Neil, and many more. This was originally done through Dover Publications until Drew founded It’s Alive! Press, an imprint of IDW.

Drew’s latest project is bringing Family Man, by Jerome Charyn and Joe Staton, back in print through a Kickstarter campaign. You can view the campaign here.

I got the chance to interview Joe Staton this past weekend about Family Man.

JC: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about today about Family Man! Before we get into that, you’re a comics veteran with over forty years of work under your belt. You’ve worked on comics like E-Man which you co-created, All-Star Comics, a long run on Green Lantern where you created the Omega Men with Marv Wolfman, and have more recently worked on the classic character Dick Tracy. Which of all your comics work is most meaningful to you and why?

JS: And thank you for the interest in our project. You’re right, I’ve been at this for a while. I suppose if I come down to what’s the most important to me it would be E-Man, the Helena Wayne Huntress, my runs on GL with Marv and Steve Englehart, and my current work on the Dick Tracy strip. I had the chance to develop characters sort of off on a tangent from what was expected. E-Man was somewhere on the border of funny and serious, Helena was the product of Earth II, where everything was an alternate take on DC history, my work on GL got me into visualizing SF aliens, always some of my favorite stuff. Tracy, I’ve always wanted to do. With Mike Curtis we’re trying to plug into classic Chester Gould while seeing Tracy as part of pop culture from the 20s up through now.

JC: Since I’m a big Legion of Super-Heroes fan and have read a lot of your work on it, I was wondering if you could humor me and talk a little bit about your time on that title.

JS: Paul Levitz brought me into the Legion without me knowing a lot about them. I was supposed to be part of a rotation with three or four other guys but for one reason or another, they dropped off and I wound up doing the most of a run. I was never able to get a handle on the characters as super-heroes so I got into the science fiction elements. It’s just lately that I’ve realized that the heart of the series is “teen romance in space.”

JC: Okay, now onto Family Man! What’s your elevator pitch for Family Man?

JS: One hour into the future, society and government in New York City are crumbling. The only forces that still maintain order are the Mob and the Church. Alonzo, a gangster, and his brother Charles, the monsignor, face each other for control.

JC: So how did you end up collaborating with Jerome Charyn, a very accomplished writer in his own right, but not so much in comics?

JS: Editor Andy Helfer was putting together a line of nontraditional crime books mixing regular comics types and people from outside. He knew that was something that I would be up for. I was originally scheduled to work on a book with Pete Hamill but Pete never got his script in and Andy suggested that I might work with Jerome. I had read Jerome’s work and thought that was a good idea. I’ve recently learned that Jerome had originally wanted to be a comics artist. But rather than go that way, he’s written around 50 novels and nonfiction. His earlier interest in art made it natural for him to describe visuals to tell a comics story.

JC: The vast majority of your published comics work at this point in your career was in superhero comics. What did you have to do differently to tackle a story like this? What was the same?

JS: Much of my work was in super-heroes, but partially that was just a function of what was being published. There was work in super-heroes. And even then, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve often wound up working on stories that are a bit outside the usual take on heroes. And I do have a history with crime and detectives. E-Man’s sidekick is Michael Mauser, the unsanitary PI. I worked on the Mike Danger comic strip with Max Collins. Chris Mills and I have our series Femme Noir, which was originally a tribute to The Spirit. My basic interests are SF and crime stories, rather than so much super-heroes. Turned out Family Man was a good fit.

JC: Much of your prior comics career was in monthly comics. Family Man was originally done as three 96-page digest comics. How did you approach working in this format? What were the challenges and benefits of it?

JS: I was drawn to comic strips when I was a little kid, especially Dick Tracy and The Phantom. I learned to think in terms of comic strips before I came to comic books. Jerome had quite conveniently written Family Man as four-panel and it would be in a square format. Four panel, square, lay them out in a row, and you have a comic strip. There is occasionally a two-panel page, rarely a single panel splash, but the comic strip concept still fit. For me, it wasn’t a question of monthly as opposed to a limited format, it was going from comic book pages to comic strip. Since Family Man wasn’t going for super-hero exaggerated foreshortening or pyrotechnics, it was comfortable in the squares.

JC: What about Family Man makes it an important story to you?

JS: In terms of what a “graphic novel” actually means, we need to remember that Jerome is an accomplished novelist. A novel usually implies layered storylines and characters and that’s what Jerome has provided here.

JC: It’s been twenty-two years since Family Man first came out and it has not been in print for the vast majority of that time in between. What about this story rings true today and would attract a new generation of comics readers?

JS: “One hour in the future” turned out not to be the future when the book was written but with us turning away from the structures of government and society it may be a future around the corner today.

JC: Why is It’s Alive Press the best place for Family Man and why is crowdfunding the best way to fund reprinting it?

JS: Drew Ford is repackaging solid projects that didn’t quite find their audience, maybe because they never had a proper collection or came out from smaller presses or whatever. Things like Sam Glanzman’s USS Stevens stories, Trina Robbins’ Dope. Family Man should be right at home at It’s Alive Press.

JC: Before we wrap this up, I want to thank you again for taking the time to talk with me and ask you if there is anything else you’d like to mention about the Family Man Kickstarter currently running or if you had any other work you’d like to note?

JS: As we’re speaking the Kickstarter still has a bit of a way to go, a few days left and some cash still needed. I hope everybody will head over there and contribute and get some nice premiums. As for other things, keep an eye out for an upcoming issue of Charlton Arrow, which will start to feature a new three-part E-Man from Nick Cuti and me. That should be out this summer. And I continue to draw Dick Tracy with writer Mike Curtis, available here. We just lately finished the big crossover between Dick Tracy and The Spirit. It’s all archived at GoComics.

And thanks again for the chance to plug Family Man, Joe.

Mike Gold: Why Is It?

Why is it… that 20th Century Fox’s Legion teevee series is so good but their X-Men movies suck so bad?

Why is it… now that Geek Culture has become so damn legitimate, I can no longer afford to be a Geek?

Why is it… that Wild Dog has lasted longer on television than it did in the comics?

Why is it… now that Marvel understands that their Civil War II Big Event was not well-received by readers or retailers and that their other recent Big Events hardly were any better received, they decided to restore the Marvel Universe to its more traditional roots – by launching still another Big Event?

Why is it… that Krypto was named Krypto? Do you know any Earthlings who named their dog Eartho? Not even the Marx Brothers named their dog that. And if Krypto were to chase a car, he’d catch it and rip it apart with his teeth. How do you train him to not do that? Bop him on the head with a rolled up newspaper and he’ll rip your lungs out.

Why is it… that Warren Beatty spent millions and millions in legal bills to protect his rights to a Dick Tracy movie sequel – and then did nothing with it? For some reason, Warren Beatty has been on my mind the past few days. Maybe he’s going to reprise his role as Milton Armitage in a Many Lives of Dobie Gillis remake.

Why is it… that comics fans seem to loathe Ben Affleck? He’s one of our better actors and outside of Gal Gadot his performance was just about the best part of Batman v. Superman. You wanna dump on a superhero actor, dump on Henry Cavill. He can’t act worth a damn, he can’t even deliver lines, and he’s so stiff you’d think cameras were his Kryptonite. They might be at that.

Why is it… that the GrimJack movie hasn’t happened?

Why is it… that the return of Reed Richards happened on the last page of the current issue of The Despicable Iron Man, or whatever that title is called? Actually, I really dug it. Which begs the question…

Why is it… that Brian Bendis seems to be on so many fanboy shitlists? I like his work. Yeah, he’s pretty much got one voice for most of his characters, but it’s a good voice. And he remains one of the very few writers who can make a three-page conversation compelling.

Why is it… that two different publishers are publishing their own versions of the Harvey Comics characters at the same time? Are their license contracts written as Mad-Libs books? Is NBCUniversal (this week’s owner of Harvey Comics, as of this writing) this sloppy about all their catalogs? Can I get the rights to Late Night With David Letterman, just to get that video tape library out of the vault? And, speaking about Harvey Comics…

Why is it… that Universal hasn’t made a Hot Stuff live action movie? Maybe they could get Ben Affleck to star. Or write. Or direct.

Why is it… that I can’t write one of these columns without mentioning Donald Trump?

John Ostrander: The Spectre – What Was I Thinking?

spectre

Halloween was yesterday (if you’re reading this on Sunday); a time of ghosts and ghouls and little children strong arming adults for candy under the threat of “tricks.” Oh, also when the Great Pumpkin rises from a really sincere pumpkin patch to bring toys and presents to good little children all around the world. Or so I have been told.

And, of course, it’s time for ghost stories and horror stories and tales of things that go bump in the night and I’ve told a few of those myself, notably Wasteland. My most successful foray into the genre, though, probably was the run I did on The Spectre with Tom Mandrake for DC Comics back in the 1990s.

The Spectre was an interesting amalgam of both supernatural and superhero. Created in 1940 by Superman creator Jerry Siegel and artist Bernard Baily, the central character was hardnosed plainclothes detective Jim Corrigan who falls afoul of mobsters and is murdered. He’s sealed into a cement filled oil drum and dumped in the river. His soul, however, is unable to rest and an entity called “The Voice” sends him back as a vengeance-seeking ghost, a.k.a. The Spectre.

As the Spectre, Corrigan has unimaginable powers and abilities. And therein lay the problem. The only being more powerful than the Spectre would be God and only on days when God had been eating his Wheaties. How do you mount a credible threat to someone like that? If there is no risk, there’s no suspense and no story. The bad guy does bad things and the Spectre shows up and dispatches him, usually in a grisly fashion.

The Spectre never lasted long in his own series, although there were several attempts. The common wisdom was that you had to reduce the Spectre’s power to make a story. The problem with that was, in so doing, you lost some of the spectacular visuals that made the Spectre what he was. Why bother?

Tom Mandrake and I had been partners for a while, working on GrimJack and then on The Fury of Firestorm. The latter series was ending and we were looking for something new to do together. Both of us were long time fans of the Ghostly Guardian (as the Spectre was known) and campaigned to get to play with him. DC was leery; a recent attempt at doing a Spectre ongoing had been cancelled only a relatively short time before.

“Give him to us,” Tom and I told DC; “We know how to make him work.”

Editor and friend Dan Raspler took up our cause and got DC to agree based on our past track record together and how we pitched our concept for the relaunch.

It wasn’t the Spectre that we changed so much as it was his human counterpart, Jim Corrigan. Different versions of the story resurrected Corrigan and even set him at odds sometimes with the Spectre persona, which had taken up residence in Corrigan’s body. I felt that Corrigan himself had become something of a wimp. So, first of all, Tom and I declared that Corrigan was dead and had been dead since the 1940s. That was his tragedy. Sometimes, he fooled himself into thinking he was alive but he was, in fact, dead.

Second, Corrigan had been a plainclothes police detective back in the 40s. He was hard-boiled. Go back and watch the police movies from back then; hell, go read the early Dick Tracy strips. Hard, tough, and not afraid to use violence and even death to achieve justice. This, we felt, was why he was given the power of the Spectre and informed how that power was used. The Spectre may have had the power of a god but he had the perspective of a mortal man, a very flawed mortal man.

We decided that “The Voice” was short for The Voice of God and the Spectre himself became the Wrath of God. In a way, he was an aspect of God, specifically of Jehovah – and a very Old Testament Jehovah at that. The Spectre had been the Angel of Death that had culled the first born of Egypt. At one point, the Spectre entity rebelled against mercy and so it was decreed it that it had to be united with a human soul in order to walk the Earth, the theory being that the human could temper the Wrath of God. However, when you had a human as liable to rage and outrage as Jim Corrigan, that wasn’t always true.

This enabled us to keep the spectacular visuals and outrageous stunts, the iconography that gave readers a reason to come to the Spectre in the first place and still allow us to construct stories. The Spectre wasn’t vulnerable but Corrigan was.

Corrigan was also weary; since the 1940s he had tried to eradicate evil and the world had only gotten darker. He was very near despair and facing an existential crisis. That also gave us a platform for our stories; we asked questions on the nature of punishment, despair, and redemption. We posed ethical and theological questions. I was less interested in giving answers to those questions, which I felt the readers could and should provide for themselves.

This is all very cerebral. I know. What really made the book sing was Tom’s artwork. This is the character that Tom Mandrake was born to draw and over and over again I looked for situations that played to his myriad strengths. Hey, as they said in The Producers, “When you got it, flaunt it, baby, flaunt it!”

What added to the run were the covers; each issue had a different artist and each artist presented their own interpretation of the character, often telling their own story in one image. Likewise, the letter page (helmed by Peter Tomasi who started as the assistant editor on the book and later became the book’s editor) also delved into the topics raised by the story, creating an interesting discussion between Pete and the reader. All in all, it was quite a package.

We went on for five years and we learned that our run was nearing an end. We were given a year’s notice and permission to wind up the story our way. This is really rare. Corrigan had grown during the run of issues we did and, in our last issue, he gave up being the Spectre to go on to his final reward. That’s also unusual. With that ending, we were able to tie up our entire series and make it all one story. It completed what Tom and I were doing in a way that one rarely gets to do.

Tom and I are playing with the horror genre again as we work on Kros: Hallowed Ground. We’re both very excited by it; this is the first time we’ve played with the horror genre together since The Spectre. Expectations may be high; The Spectre was one of the high-water marks in both our careers. We feel confident but not cocky. The Spectre was very much of its time and where we were in our careers but I think it also stands up today. Two TPBs have been issued from DC gathering some of the early issues; I hope they go on to collect the others as well.

All false modesty aside, I think it’s worth it.

Mike Gold: The Watch’s Comics Roots

Wrist RadioTime for a bit of a comics history lesson… but first, a word from our sponsor.

Monday Apple revealed its latest toy, the Watch. Like most Apple products, it looks pretty cool but seems overpriced, and like most Apple products, once you look at what you’re getting it’s not really overpriced, just expensive. That’s true with the Watch, but I’ll admit it’s doubtful I’ll buy the first generation version.

Apple WatchThis is because for the past many decades my watch choice decisions were limited to “Timex” and “Swatch.” So $350 – or, more likely, $700 for the version I deem best for me – is a lot of money. But there are no shortage of watches with such a price tag: Movado, Breitling, Panerai, Invicta, the $600,000 de Grisogono Meccanico dG S25D… and the most recent and the one with the best name – Shinola.

No shit folks: a Shinola watch runs about $850, give or take a couple hundred depending on the model. Their high-end watch runs $1,500 – maybe more; that’s the best offered at the Shinola shop in Manhattan’s Chelsea district when I was there a couple weeks ago (to buy shoe polish). But I digress.

The first Mickey Mouse watch was manufactured in 1933 by the Ingersoll Company, which probably is not related to our ComicMix columnist of the same name. It was part of America’s first massive, integrated merchandising campaign based upon a cartoon or comics character, and was set up to take advantage of the Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago. The whole operation was set up by a man named Kay Kamen – a true legend. According to Tomart’s Disneyana Update, “Kay Kamen invented the whole licensing industry. Not just for Disney, alone; others followed suit.”

Thirteen years later, visionary cartoonist Chester Gould “invented” the two-way wrist radio as a fictional tool for policemen in general and his Dick Tracy in particular. This triggered a merchandising blitz of Mickey Mouse proportions and became the reference standard for cool gizmos. Actually, in Chet’s story the watch was a deus ex machina – Gould had Tracy in one of his classic deathtraps and the detective used his watch to summon help.

His editor rejected the concept. Deploying a deus ex machina usually is a cop out, something the writer pulls out of his ass to resolve the problem. Think of Green Arrow’s quiver. Gould’s defense was that there was an actual two-way wrist radio invented by Al Gross, the guy who created the Walkie-Talkie. Al also developed the garage door opener, the cordless phone, and the cellphone, but he couldn’t acquire financing to put them into production and his patents expired. He, himself, expired in 2000.

Amusingly, Apple offers as one of its many, many “watch faces” the animated visage of Mickey Mouse (above). I strongly suspect that decision had a lot more to do with marketing concerns than historical tribute, but, knowing Apple, I wouldn’t be surprised if the subject came up.

As for Dick Tracy, well, I’m sorry to suggest that his most famous crime-fighting tool is now available to every Tom, Dick, and Henrietta who has between $350 and $17,000 to spare. I assume the high-end version incorporates both transporter and phaser technologies.

That original Mickey Mouse watch cost about $3.50, which would be a bit over $61.00 in 2014 money. Today, Ingersoll offers an “exact” replica of the original model – but with modern mechanics – for a mere $299.00. And it’s just a replica.

Hey, it looks like that Watch isn’t so expensive after all!

 

John Ostrander: Newspapers and their Great Comics

Dick TracyI’m a fossil. I know it. Proof positive: I read the daily newspaper. Not on a pad or tablet or my computer, I go out and actually buy the blamed thing. I read it during breakfast. Yes, I still get a certain percentage of my news from the computer and/or Jon Stewart and The Daily Show but I like having the physical newspaper, just as I prefer actual books to an e-reader. If I don’t get to read the paper, I get cranky. Or crankier.

I think I got that from my father, Joel W. Ostrander Sr. He was always the first up in the morning but, during my high school years, I was up second. We’d both be at breakfast and we would read the newspaper. I’d get the sections he was done with; that’s where I learned to be possessive about my newspaper. If I buy the newspaper, you get it when I’m done. If you want to read it sooner, go buy your own.

Dad and I would have breakfast and read in a comfortable silence unless my mother decided to get up early and join us. Mom was a talker in the morning. Worse, she would expect you to talk back and on the topic she started so you had to listen. You couldn’t just fake it or grunt replies. She expected coherent sentences. I can do that in the morning but it takes an effort and more concentration than I care to give. Just let me read my newspaper and no one gets hurt.

When I move to a new location, I always have to decide which of the available newspapers I’m going to read (assuming I have a choice which is increasingly becoming difficult as newspapers fold up). So I have to choose which newspaper is going to be my regular. While the editorial bent is an important factor (politically left of center is a prerequisite), the determining factor is usually what comic strips they have. I was raised on the Chicago Tribune but I would also buy the Sunday Chicago American because I enjoyed the comics there. Dad would bring home the Chicago Daily News in the evening so, all in all, I got a goodly number of strips.

Chester Gould was still doing Dick Tracy when I was younger (my buddy Joe Staton now draws it) and Harold Gray was doing Little Orphan Annie. Al Capp was doing L’il Abner, Hal Foster was doing Prince Valiant, Walt Kelly was doing Pogo, and Milton Caniff was doing Steve Canyon. I don’t know if music was better back then but, yes, the comic strips certainly were. Perhaps even more than the comic books I read, comic strips were influential in my development as a writer, especially in graphic literature.

Some of the strips are no longer around. Leonard Starr’s On Stage was beautifully drawn and wonderfully written. I would later come across the British strip Modesty Blaise, created by Peter O’Donnell and drawn by a succession of artists following Jim Holdaway, who drew it first. I read those still not only for pleasure but because O’Donnell was a master of the medium. He knew how to pace and drive a story, wasting nothing, with every line forwarding the plot or the characters in a minimum of words. Elegant and compelling.

These days, there are very few adventure strips or strips with a continuing narrative and that’s a pity. Mostly, it’s gag and humor strips although some strips have picked up that narrative aspect. For example, Luann – created, written and drawn by Greg Evans – started out as a gag strip but has developed into a narrative, with the characters allowed to age and change.

Some strips these days are minimally drawn, such as Dilbert by Scott Adams. The drawing is competent although I get the feeling some panels are simply repeated over and over again but the writing is generally sharp and satiric. Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis also has minimal drawing although, again, the writing is generally sharp and funny. Mutts, written and drawn by Patrick Mc Donnell, is a modern classic; better drawn although sometimes the writing is not so sharp. Non Sequitur, by Wiley Miller, is unique – sometimes it is a single panel drawing and sometimes it’s a sequential strip. It has continuing characters but it also has many stand alone installments. This one is also superbly written and drawn and benefits, I think, from Miller’s work as an editorial cartoonist. He packs a lot into a little space.

Some strips, unfortunately, are wretched, badly drawn and almost incomprehensible. That was always true, however, and there’s good reading to be found even today. Almost all of them are also available somewhere on the Internet but I still enjoy reading them in the newspaper if I can. There’s a tactile pleasure in holding the newspaper and experiencing them that way. I recommend it.

As they (used to) say, see you in the funny papers.

 

Martha Thomases: Stripping for Summer

dondiHow was your holiday weekend last week? Mine was great. I spent Sunday sitting in the sun by a lake, talking about graphic storytelling.

There were six of us, plus a pre-teen who just wanted to play video games, a form of graphic storytelling perhaps but not one we are going to discuss. At least four of us had a jones for newspaper strips. Four of us liked comic books. And at least five of us liked gag panels. It’s also possible that all of us liked all forms, but I’m not sure, nor does it really matter.

I was especially intrigued by the love given to newspaper strips. When I was a girl, they were my favorite part of the newspaper. I read everything, even Mary Worth and Dondi. I loved Li’l Abner even when Al Capp went right-wing crazy.

But I loved the funny strips more. Peanuts, Blondie, and later Calvin & Hobbes My parents had a subscription to The New Yorker, and a book that collected New Yorker cartoons from 1925 to 1955, and it is from these that I learned what funny drawings looked like.

When I was old enough to appreciate the skills involved in graphic storytelling, I enjoyed Milton Caniff. And I wanted to like Little Orphan Annie and Dick Tracy, but they never grabbed me on an emotional level. I never had to read the next day’s strip.

By this time, I was rabidly into comic books. Instead of waiting weeks to read a whole story, as required by newspaper strips, I got the whole thing between two covers. I liked this better.

In modern times, there aren’t very many comic books that tell a complete story in a single issue. There are fewer and fewer newspapers comic strips (and fewer and fewer newspapers), and serial dramas seem much less popular than humor strips. And there are fewer and fewer markets for gag panels.

Each of these forms combine words and pictures. Each needs to communicate story and character quickly, in a small space. And yet, each is completely different, one from the other.

I personally don’t enjoy collections of newspaper story strips. I find that the form requires a grey deal of repetition, and it hurts my head after a while.

I frequently don’t enjoy collections of comic book stories for the same reason. The passing of time between individual episodes requires something that will jog the reader’s memory, but it is less effective in a collection. A graphic novel should stand by itself, and so should individual issues.

I love gag panel collections, and feel that is the best reason to have bookshelves in the bathroom.

Is there is any title that works best in all three genres?

Yes.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

 

Martha Thomases: Udder Catastrophe

Thomases Art 130215There are two totally unrelated things I want to talk about this week. Well, not entirely unrelated. Both have actual connections to comics, something my last column managed to completely miss.

1. In a move that reminds absolutely everyone of Dick Tracy, Apple may be developing the twenty-first century version of the two-way wrist radio. This would be a flexible all-class device that one would wear on the wrist. There is speculation the screen would be 1.5 inches in diameter.

I hate this idea. I can barely type on the keyboard of my phone with two thumbs. There is no way I could tap out anything even vaguely intelligible on my wrist with one hand.  There is only a slightly larger chance that I would be able to read anything on a screen that small, so I guess that would limit the amount to typing I would need to do.

There is apparently an entire department at Apple that is developing wearable computers. The article alludes to the possibility of Apple sunglasses as well.

My first reaction was to get excited, because I would look much cooler in sunglasses, and also, Neuromancer. However, the more I think about it, the more I think it’s either a bad idea, or requires more refinement. I mean, it’s difficult enough to walk a city sidewalk now, when the multitudes are so engrossed with looking at their phones that they walk into traffic. And they have to actually take their phones out of their pockets and hold them in their hands to look at those screens. With glasses, even that little bit of effort is superfluous. As you walk down the sidewalk (or, God forbid, drive your car) you won’t be able to tell who is or isn’t paying attention.

We’re all doomed.

At least, with a watch, there’s the possibility of fighting crime.

2). Those of you who keep track of my every utterance may remember how appalled I was last year when the editorial brain trust at DC Comics decided that super-powered female lizards have breasts

https://www.comicmix.com//columns/2012/03/23/martha-thomases-what-would-women-worldkillers-wear/. For one thing, I kept formulating a joke in my head (“Like tits on a lizard, these are the Days of Our Lives“) that no one would understand anymore.

But, mostly, it upsets me that purportedly adult humans either know nothing about human biology or think the customers who pay their salaries are stupid tools who are easily manipulated. Both of these alternatives fill me with despair.

And this week, as I read my DC Comics, I was let down in exactly this way by a few books I normally enjoy.

The first was the end of the “Rot World” storyline, taking place in the #17 issues of Animal Man and Swamp Thing. Our title heroes and their allies are fighting creatures who have been overtaken by The Rot, so that they are desiccated zombies or monsters. Among the zombies are Superman and Wonder Woman. They are skeletal, except for Superman’s enormous muscles, and Wonder Woman’s muscular arms and giant breasts.

It makes no sense whatsoever for Wonder Woman to have a body that indicates she has no fat, but the gigantic breasts belie that. I suppose it’s possible that her breasts are full of pus, which would be scary, but also disturbing.

And then, in Dial H for Hero #9, the woman with a dial turns into a Minotaura, a female minotaur. She is covered with hair, has horns on her head, again with the exaggerated musculature, and again with ginormous boobies.

Think about it. A minotaur, half man and half bull. The female version would be half woman, half cow. No horns. And, if mammary glands, just as likely to be an udder as breasts.

Consider the possibilities of the super-powered udder. There could be jet-propelled milk, used to knock opponents off balance. A full udder is heavy, and an empty one could be flexible. It would be awesome.

But it wouldn’t give the fanboys boners, so I guess it’s not to be.

I await the Apple computer that gets built into bras.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

 

REVIEW: Dick Tracy

Today, comic book fans may recall Warren Beatty’s adaptation of Dick Tracy as a memorable misfire. When it was released in 1990, it was met with, at best, mixed reviews and while it performed respectably at the box office, missed Walt Disney’s estimates so the hoped for franchise was stillborn. Blame could be squarely placed at Beatty’s feet since he had a strangle hold on the film as its director, producer, and star. It got so crazy that poor Kyle Baker had to use only three approved head shots for the 64-page comics adaptation, which stretched even his considerable skills.

We have a great opportunity to reconsider this film now that Disney is releasing it tomorrow on Blu-ray.  One of the things about the production is that Beatty wanted to recreate Chester Gould’s strip as faithfully as possible, which meant he limited the color palette to a mere seven colors, predominantly red, blue, yellow, and green – all the same shade. Surrounding himself with a veteran crew consisting of production designer Richard Sylbert, set decorator Rick Simpson, cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, visual effects supervisors Michael Lloyd and Harrison Ellenshaw, and costume designer Milena Canonero, Beatty got the best looking film possible. The translation was so faithful that mainstream audiences took issue with the look.

What Beatty seemed to forget is that adapting from one medium to another requires certain accommodations and this experiment just didn’t work. In vibrant Blu-ray, after a digital restoration, its sharply garish and not necessarily for the better. What did adapt better were the makeup designs that replicated the grotesque Gould rogues gallery thanks to the ministrations of prosthetic makeup designers John Caglione, Jr. and Doug Drexler.

Only someone as major as Beatty could have corralled the roster of stars to don the latex, including Dustin Hoffman (Mumbles), William Forsythe (Flattop), James Tolkan (Numbers), Mandy Patinkin (88 Keys), R. G. Armstrong (Pruneface), Henry Silva (Influence), Paul Sorvino (Lips Manlis), James Caan (Spuds Spaldoni), Catherine O’Hara (Texie Garcia), and Robert Beecher as (Ribs Mocca). In fact, there are probably half-a-dozen too many of Gould’s creations in the mix, diluting the impact of any one foe especially when they were all under the influence of Al Pacino’s Alphonse “Big Boy” Caprice.

On the side of good there’s Glenne Headly as Tracy’s longtime love, Tess Trueheart; Charlie Korsmo as The Kid, Charles Durning as Chief Brandon, and Dick Van Dyke as District Attorney John Fletcher. Headly’s little girl voice has always annoyed me and she really didn’t have much to do, which meant she was easily eclipsed by the film’s real femme fatale: Madonna as Breathless Mahoney.

The script from Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr. is remarkably faithful to the golden era of the strip, with the blood-soaked streets of the big city, and a cops and robbers vibe. The main story involves the Kid witnessing a mob hit from some of Big Boy’s enforcers and the crime lord wants him silenced before a possible trial. And Breathless is the only witness to a kidnapping so Tracy spends quality time with her, where she does her best to seduce the square-jawed hero. And pulling the strings from the shadows is a criminal known only as The Blank, whose true identity is revealed late in the film and may surprise a handful of viewers.

The movie crackles along but even in the rewatching, just lacks a vital spark to make us care or cheer. The story and performances almost take themselves too seriously and when set against the uniquely colorful setting is more jarring than anything else. It’s not a bad film in the end, just not a very exciting one.

The digital restoration needs to be seen to be appreciated and Disney did a lovely job, The Blu-ray comes with a digital copy but neglects to include any extras to strongly recommend its acquisition.

Martha Thomases: The Future Is All Right

Martha Thomases: The Future Is All Right

The electricity, heat, hot water, Internet and phone service all work today. Even my elevator works. Doing without is last week’s news.

This week’s news is the election. As I write this, people are voting. We won’t have results until tonight at the earliest. Since I’ve voted already, I’m going to try to ignore the media until the polls close. There’s nothing more I can do, and that is frustrating. I want to do everything, and I can’t. If you are a spiritual person, pray for me.

For the last few years, my Republican brother-in-law has been telling me that the problem with the economy (and Obama’s presidency) is “uncertainty.” Because job-creators don’t know what Obama will do, they hesitate to expand, to hire more people, because what if they make the wrong choice? As someone who started a business (albeit in 1979), I can report that I never knew what was going to happen, nor did I expect to. It was my responsibility to make things happen.

According to Aaron Ross Sorkin in The New York Times, the election won’t make any difference in solving this problem, even if things go my brother-in-law’s way.

What will the future bring? We don’t know. When I was a kid, I thought the future meant I’d have a jetpack, or a flying (electric) car, and my clothes would have those pads on the shoulders like everyone wore on Krypton and the Legion of Super-Heroes. My apartment would clean itself. I thought we’d get our meals in pill form. I thought we’d wear Dick Tracy two-way radios.

Instead, we’re still dependent on fossil fuels. That’s bad. We don’t have pills for dinner. That’s good. I couldn’t have predicted the local food movement, but I’m really happy because now I can tell the difference among 15 different kinds of apples.

Then there are the things I didn’t even think about to form a prediction. Gay marriage became legal instead of marriage fading away as an institution. Instead of working a George Jetson three-hour work week, we expect employees to put in 50 hours or more. I don’t have a robot maid, but I could have a robot vacuum cleaner if I wanted. I could have a robot dog. I carry around more computing power in my pocket than there was on the entire Star Ship Enterprise. That’s dazzling, even if I use a lot of it to send photos of my cat.

We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. That’s what makes life interesting.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman