Tagged: Gotham City

Mike Gold: It’s Not Your Father’s Boob Tube Anymore

gold-art-140122-150x214-1540579It just started to snow out here in the Atlantic Northeast. I got the mandatory robo-call from our mayor telling us the world is coming to its end. There’s just enough white stuff on the ground for a 1980s yuppie to slip into a twitchy nostalgic daze. Going outside would be stupid: people out here don’t know how to drive on snow, and they act as though a little bit of snow is a sign from their lord telling them they’re going to hell. Which, given the fact this is snow and not hot hail, seems oxymoronic.

I’d give up and just watch television, but I really haven’t enjoyed daytime television since Phil Donohue got liquored up and threated to bite Mike Douglas’s balls off, and besides, odds are in favor of my losing power for at least a while. The good news is, I’ve got lots of stuff on my iPad – including work – and I can recharge that in my car. The better news is, pretty soon we’ll all have access to a lot more fun stuff.

Perhaps you heard that Marvel Studios is cutting out a slice of the MCU and taking it to Netflix as a whole bunch of mini-serieses: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage, each with its own 13 episode series, each set in Hell’s Kitchen, and then winding up with a big mini called “The Defenders.”

That’s pretty cool. I like the idea of programming coming from non-broadcast and non-cable sources, and I like both House of Cards and Alpha House on Netflix and Amazon Prime, respectively. Marvel says that Netflix gives them the ability to do more fan-friendly teevee; that’s either a really good idea or a threat. We’ll see.

Now comes word that another comics creation is coming to TabletVision. Amazon Studios is paying for the long-in-development Barbarella pilot, based upon Jean-Claude Forest classic science-fiction comic from the 1960s. Skyfall writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are still on board to write the series.

I don’t think any of these projects would have made it on cable teevee, and certainly not on broadcast. Oh, sure, maybe Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist or Luke Cage, but not all four tying into a fifth mini-series. As for Barbarella, well, the campy movie doesn’t transfer well into the 21st Century, but the comic book does. We’ll see which path it takes… and how salacious they can be.

With the recent, massive improvement of Agents of SHIELD, Fox’s Gotham pilot (which sounds like it has great potential), NBC’s John Constantine pilot, and ABC’s Agent Carter pilot (I loved the Marvel One-Shot on the Iron Man 3 Blu-Ray), I’m actually a lot more enthusiastic about teevee comics than their four-color counterparts at Marvel and DC.

And they’re willing to put it all on my lap, or, through AppleTV or similar devices, on my HDTV.

For free… well, pretty much.

Thank you.



FRIDAY: Martha Thomases


Netflix Commissions 4 Marvel Series Leading to The Defenders

David Slade Exits Fox’s DaredevilMarvel’s cinematic Avengers will be joined on the smaller screen by The Defenders, the culmination of four series just commissioned by Netflix. Luke Cage, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist were announced this by Variety morning as each receiving thirteen episode commitments. The linking device is that all four series will be set in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen, which, in the comics, has been Daredevil’s base of operations dating back to the 1970s.

This rumored set of series was revealed without naming producers, writers, showrunners or casting but would be expected to debut some time in 2014. The announcement did not acknowledge if this quartet of series will be set in the same reality as the film series. If so, it would also connect these shows to ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Netflix has received great attention thanks to their original series, a move now being imitated this month by Amazon Prime and soon by Hulu and YouTube. Their House of Cards was the first internet series to receive an Emmy nomination and will be back for a second season in the winter. The pay channel’s Orange is the New Black is their most watched original series and will also be back for a second season, as will their Hemlock Grove.

Since Jeph Loeb was added as a VP for filmed material, Marvel has filled in a vital gap with live-action television, something they seemed unable to crack. Beyond these four, and the subsequent Defenders teamup project, Marvel has been said to be eyeing a Peggy Carter spinoff based on the short film with Haylee Atwell that was attached to the home video release of Iron Man 3. Other series apparetly also ebing pitched to other networks.

Disney’s Marvel movies will move from Starz to Netflix after the current dea for the studio’s output expires in 2015, just in time for The Avengers 2.

DC Entertainment aso has numerous television series in development, mostly at their co-owned CW network with the Flash expected for the 2014-15 season. Fox is also developing a Gotham City series featuring young James Gordon, long before Bruce Wayne first dons the cape and cowl.

REVIEW – Scribblenauts Unmasked – a DC Comics Adventure

REVIEW – Scribblenauts Unmasked – a DC Comics Adventure

After months of anticipation the latest Scribblenauts adventure is out, taking the popular series in a new direction, namely into the DC Universe. Series hero Maxwell and his twin sister Lily have a debate over who’s the better hero, batman or Superman, and decide the best way to find out is to go there and find out.  So with the help of Maxwell’s magic notepad that can create anything he writes in it, and Lily’s magic globe that can transport them anywhere they like, they head for Gotham City, where things…so not go smoothly.

To answer the most important question first, the library of DC Characters the game can create is outrageously exhaustive. No Watchmen and no Milestone characters, but The Legion and the Substitute Legion, the Doom Patrol, the Challengers of the Unknown, the All-Star Squadron, and damn near member of the Justice League you can think of is in there – and yes, that means Ted Kord – all three Blue Beetles, in fact.  It’s not perfectly complete: Eyeful Ethel, a failed Legion of Super Heroes candidate didn’t make the cut. And while Ralph Dibny, The Elongated Man, is in there, his wife didn’t make the cut. Which is odd because Jean Loring, in Eclipso form, did. While I found a few characters who weren’t in there, I was far more impressed with the ones who were.

The Big Bad in the game is Maxwell’s long-time enemy, Doppleganger, an evil version of Maxwell who sides with the DC Villains. In a happy change from past adventures, Maxwell’s sister Lily plays an active, albeit support role, providing Maxwell with news and assistance from the Batcave.

While the game is adorable to see, the characters chosen are not all cutesy-tootsie.  One of your first missions in Gotham is to transport serial killer Mr. Zsasz to a prison helicopter. Oh, the fun as I had to explain to The Kid who he was and how he came to be…

The mechanics of the game are largely the same as usual for the series – presented with a number of puzzles to solve, you must surmount obstacles by creating items with your magic notepad.  So, if standing before a cliff to have to scale, you could write “ladder” and a ladder would appear. Similarly, you could write “Grappling Hook,” “Jet pack” (at which point it would ask if you wanted Adam Strange‘s jetpack, Space Ranger’s, or a choice of several others), all of which would get you up the cliff equally successfully.  Special bonus missions with special limitations offer extra bonuses.  More than anything else, the game rewards creativity, both in the point values, and the sheer joy of success when you need to call for a doctor, and Dr. Mid-Nite appears.

In this game, a lot of the challenges are more combat based. Random villains will be causing mischief, and you are required to either arm yourself, or crate a hero to combat the spandex-clad menaces. The game has hundred of mini-missions to beat, and the missions change every time you enter a new location.

And WHAT locations – Starting in Gotham City, you slowly earn the chance to travel to Metropolis, Central city, Atlantis, and even Oa.  More and more characters and props become available as you pregress, allowing you to wear gear and costumes of dozens of heroes.

The story is the same in both the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game, with small gameplay differences on each platform. The Wii U version allows other players to interact with the game by using a Wii Remote while the main player uses the Gamepad. The 3Ds version uses streetpass, allowing players to unlock special uniforms and gear by exchanging data with other players automatically, just while walking around.

An already fun game series will get an introduction to a whole new audience who will not be disappointed with the story, or the selection of characters. Easy to pick up, and just as easy to stop and save when the real world beckons.Well worth your time.


The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector’s Edition Coming in September

Batman Begins_bat-signalA day after Christian Bale confirmed he would not don the cape and cowl for a Justice League movie comes the official announcement of his three Dark Knight films being collected in time for the holidays. Christopher Nolan’s vision of Gotham City and its defender resuscitated Batman after a fallow stretch and showed us a darker view of heroism and its costs. Here’s the official press release:

Burbank, Calif. July 1, 2013 – Christopher Nolan’s reimagining of the Batman franchise beginning with 2005’s Batman Begins enjoyed phenomenal critical and box-office success.

Now on September 24, Nolan’s three Batman films Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises – will be released by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment as The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector’s Edition. The six-disc set will feature all three films with their existing extra content, two new featurettes and exclusive new collectible memorabilia. This must-own collection for fans of DC Comics’ Caped Crusader is available in premium packaging and will sell for $99.97 SRP.

TheDarkKnightRises_TeaserPoster-600x887About the Ultimate Collector’s Edition (UCE):

*Disc 1 – Batman Begins Feature and Special Features

*Disc 2 – The Dark Knight Feature

*Disc 3 – The Dark Knight Special Features

*Disc 4 – The Dark Knight Rises Feature

*Disc 5 – The Dark Knight Rises Special Features

*Disc 6 – Bonus Disc of New Special Features (details follow)

NEW Special Features:

  • The Fire Rises: The Creation and Impact of The Dark Knight Trilogy  The inside perspective on the fascinating story behind the creation of one of the most celebrated franchises and how it changed the scope of movie making….forever.  Full of never-before-seen footage, rare moments, and exclusive interviews with  Guillermo Del Toro, Damon Lindelof, Michael Mann, Richard Roeper, Zack Snyder and others.
  • Christopher Nolan & Richard Donner: A Conversation – For the first time, Directors Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy) and Richard Donner (Superman) sit down to discuss the trials and triumphs involved in bringing the two most iconic superheroes of all time to the big screen, and how Superman influenced Nolan when developing Batman Begins.
  • IMAX® Sequences: The Dark Knight; The Dark Knight Rises – See your favorite scenes as they were intended in the original IMAX© aspect ratio

Exclusive NEW Memorabilia:

  • Premium Mattel Hot Wheels Vehicles: Batmobile, Batpod and Tumbler
  • Newly commissioned collectible art cards by Mondo featuring Scarecrow, Joker, Bane, Harvey Dent, and Ra’s al Ghul
  • 48-page hardcover book featuring production stills and behind the scenes images from all three movies

About The Films

Batman Begins (2005)

Batman Begins explores the origins of the Batman legend and the Dark Knight’s emergence as a force for good in Gotham. In the wake of his parents’ murder, disillusioned industrial heir Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) travels the world seeking the means to fight injustice and turn fear against those who prey on the fearful. He returns to Gotham and unveils his alter-ego: Batman, a masked crusader who uses his strength, intellect and an array of high tech deceptions to fight the sinister forces that threaten the city.

New Images and IMAX TV Spot Debut For The Dark Knight RisesThe Dark Knight (2008)

The follow-up to Batman Begins, The Dark Knight reunites director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale, who reprises the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne in his continuing war on crime. With the help of Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Batman sets out to destroy organized crime in Gotham for good. The triumvirate proves effective, but soon find themselves prey to a rising criminal mastermind known as The Joker (Heath Ledger), who thrusts Gotham into anarchy and forces Batman closer to crossing the fine line between hero and vigilante. Maggie Gyllenhaal joins the cast as Rachel Dawes. Returning from Batman Begins are Oldman, Michael Caine as Alfred and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox.

Dark Knight Rises (2012)

It has been eight years since Batman vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act.

catwoman poseBut everything will change with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar with a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane, a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane. Christian Bale stars, along with Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Morgan Freeman.


Street Date: September 24, 2013

Order Due Date: August 20, 2013

Catalog/UPC #: 1000372133 / 883929308002

Pricing: $99.97 SRP

Note: All enhanced content listed above is subject to change.

Blu-ray Disc™ and Blu-ray™ and the logos are the trademarks of Blu-ray Disc Association.

® & © 2009 IMAX Corporation. All rights reserved.

Warner Home Video Blu-ray Discs™ offer resolution six times higher than standard definition DVDs, as well as extraordinarily vibrant contrast and color and beautifully crisp sound. The format also provides a higher level of interactivity, with instant access to extra features via a seamless menu bar where viewers can enjoy features without leaving or interrupting the film.

REVIEW: The Dark Knight Rises

the-dark-knight-rises-2012-movie-blu-ray-cover1-e1348811637150-300x379-9168507I will stipulate that The Dark Knight Rises is not necessarily the movie Christopher Nolan set out to make. The tragic death of Heath Ledger derailed his plans to conclude the trilogy with more between Batman and the Joker so he spent the last four years rethinking how he wanted to end his trilogy. What he crafted is a definitive conclusion to his vision of Batman and it is a mostly satisfying film experience. Now out on disc from Warner Home Video, we’re given a chance to re-evaluate it.

Gotham City is a place of corruption, we’ve been told this extensively in Batman Begins and the presence of the Clown Prince of Crime in The Dark Knight reinforces that. As a result, the theme returns in the third installment but with every passing film, Gotham is less and less of a character and more of a stand-in for New York City. In the first part, Gotham had the Wayne-built monorail system, a city bathed in grays and blacks, and the rise of a costumed champion to help stem the corruption before Ra’s al Ghul and his League of Shadows destroyed it. Exactly why Gotham of all the cities in the world is the vilest and deserving of fiery justice has never made sense in this trilogy.

The second film showed us how the city’s corrosive nature could take down even the most noble of men, district attorney Harvey Dent/ When the acid ruined half his face, the act sent him into the darkness and Two-Face emerged. Nolan twisted events so that Batman took the blame to preserve Dent’s reputation telling Commissioner Gordon he was giving the city the Batman it needed, a bogeyman to be feared. And then he vanished.

We pick up eight years later and Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse and here’s where I started having trouble with the story. If Batman was the bogeyman, then you need to see him now and then to reinforce the message. Instead, he broods in Wayne Manor with a silly beard, mourning the death of Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes/Maggie Gyllenhaal) who rejected him pretty solidly in the first film and again the second, although Alfred (Michael Caine) kept the news from him. Wayne lost his parents and spent seven years to become a force of vengeance, returning to Gotham to rid it of the evil that turned children into orphans. His girlfriend rejects him and dies so he broods for eight years? I don’t buy that at all. And what has he done for eight years? We’re never told. One could conclude that the physical toll of the first two films have rattled him badly, eradicating his knee cartilage and causing head trauma which might explain his mood, but we’re left guessing.

Gotham, we’re told, has enjoyed nearly a decade of unprecedented peace thanks to the draconian Dent Act which apparently handed down such stiff sentences (without chance of parole) that after stuffing 1000 criminals in the poorly located Blackgate Prison, crime has dropped to little more than jaywalking. Mayor Garcia (Nestor Carbonell) has remained in office but the political tides are turning and he intends to replace Gordon, a commissioner needed during a war, less so during peaceful times.

As all of this happens, the masked terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy) has come to Gotham. For six months, he has been overseeing a surreptitious mining of the city’s infrastructure, building an underground army that has become the stuff of rumor and legend. Why and what motivates him remains a mystery until the final act.

Apparently the city’s corrupting nature has woken up and forces are at play that brings Wayne and his alter ego back into the spotlight. That both reappear nearly simultaneously and no one makes the connection shows how somnambulant the city’s populace has grown. Initially, he dips his toe back into the game of life not because Alfred harangued him for the umpteenth time but when Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) manages to steal his mother’s pearl necklace, a physical reminder of his loss. Her carefree approach also sparks something missing in his own soul.

Apparently, the city’s acidic touch has been centered on their financial sector and there John Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn) has been manipulating the markets, using Wayne’s stolen fingerprints, to force Wayne to lose control of his company so Daggett can gain access to the fusion device that could mean clean energy for the city but can also be weaponized and therefore is mothballed by Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). Daggett, we learn, hired Bane to help him gain control of the device, but Bane took the contract in order to further his own agenda.

Batman’s return is exciting to one and all as a veteran cop tells another, “You’re in for a treat”. Nolan does an excellent job brining the action to life and the film is a visual stunner. Where he falls down repeatedly is neglecting to give the characters’ much depth. Wayne and Kyle and maybe Gordon have shades to them while everyone else is cardboard. Apparently, out of thousands of cops, the only one with a brain is John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and others throughout the film show up, more the plot along and vanish so none feel real. Alfred whines in a one-note performance, the Mayor is cypher, and even Bane lacks the shades of brilliance he had in the comics. There are some storytelling gaps of logic as well that appear here and there, making you scratch your head.

Events proceed until Bane detonates his bombs, isolating Gotham from the world in a nod towards the No Man’s Land storyline and his thugs turn the city into a prison state. A city that refused to kill one another in the second film suddenly cowers beneath Bane’s bellicose tones. Sorry, don’t buy it at all. Bane gains access to the fusion device turns it into a nuclear bomb but only a handful of people seem to know it will destruct in five months one way or the other given its unstable nature. We briefly see citizen’s justice as the 99% exact vengeance against the 1% presiding over by Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy), dispensing not fear but death sentences. Finally, the city’s corruptive nature, very thing Ra’s has tried to stamp out, has taken hold of its citizens. What life during this time was like should have been explored in far greater depth, similar to the two boat dilemma seen in the second film.

Bane breaks Batman’s back. Anyone who read the comics knows this is coming and we anticipate an interesting recovery sequence, one that does not rely on the magical healing touch used in the comics. That Bane left Gotham to fly Batman to the very pit that spawned him, half a world away, makes little sense. Nolan went for a far more painful and realistic solution but also it slows the film’s momentum to a crawl and we really don’t learn much about Bruce Wayne during this protracted sequence.

He finds his mojo, returns to Gotham and really does become the Batman the city needs. His presence is inspirational: to children, to Gordon, and even to Kyle. The final act is the retaking of Gotham and destruction of the bomb. It’s overly long and at times tedious as people stop to do things that make little sense given how little time they have and knowing how unstable the bomb is. Gordon, for example, takes time to go to the suburbs (or so it looks) to collect the inept Foley (Matthew Modine).

As the clock ticks inexorably to 0:00, characters stop to talk, a lot. The story slows to a crawl as characters finally reveal their true feelings and motivations and here. The worst story logic is probably showing us five seconds until a nuclear explosion but somehow Batman escapes the blast radius with any burns.

Nolan offers us the few storytelling surprises in the whole film. Among them is Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) who has had something to do with the fusion device and Wayne for years, and has hints of an interesting character, left unexplored.

The climax goes as expected and by this point you see how Nolan has set this up to be a conclusion to the trilogy. This has the feeling of beginning, middle, end, with plenty of connective tissue tying all three films together and for that Nolan, his writing partners Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer get kudos. The major players in these films have been masked, rarely revealing their true selves, offering up one face or another needed from the overt Batman/Wayne or Two-Face to players like Daggett and Crane. These conflicting natures were a lovely touch to the films but those who are exactly as they seem – Alfred, Gordon, Rachel – feel like lesser characters as a result.

Bale does a good job showing the pain and emotional emptiness he feels until forces demand he wake up. But to me, the best performance goes to Hathaway who instilled Kyle with moral conflict and enough depth to make her worthy of more. The rest do a commendable job although Hardy seems wasted as Bane since he never gets to really act, just strut and punch. Oldman’s Gordon and Levitt’s Blake are serviceable and everyone else feels more or less stock, robbing the film of its richness.

I have liked but never loved this take on the Batman, from the flimsy cape to the over-muscled tumbler. Nolan had some interesting things to say and explore in these three films but always came up short, never really exploring the themes as they deserve or making the characters feel real enough to react to these events. Gotham City remains a corrupt place in need of justice beyond that the police can offer. It needs the very champion its corruption birthed and it will be interesting to see what the next filmmaker brings to the enduring mythos.

The film comes nicely packaged under a lenticular cover and contains two Blu-ray discs – the film and the special features – with a standard DVD edition of the film as disc three. An Ultraviolet code also can be found within the case. You’ll be very pleased with the quality of the transfer as all the shadows and blacks are well-preserved without losing clarity. The sound is above-average for those who listen to the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track and you won’t miss a note of Hans Zimmer’s excellent score.

The filmmaking was meticulous recorded allowing them to slice and dice the footage into bite-size featurettes covering everything you might want to know about the process. Ending the Knight Production (68 minutes), Characters (28 minutes), and Reflections (15 minutes), you get some fine pieces on the production then there are the characters, and finally, two short pieces trying to put a bow on the entire trilogy but they both felt far too self-congratulatory. My favorites may have been Anne Hathaway talking about her research into playing Selina Kyle and how the aerial opening was accomplished. A lot of good information is shared with rebuilding Wayne Manor and upgrading the Batcave as a result, information that might have been better shared via the film itself. Interestingly, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are almost absent from the entire disc, which is a shame. Also missing and noticeable in its absence is more about the actual writing process, and the challenges that came from losing Heath Ledger in the second film.

There’s the nearly hour-long The Batmobile documentary and I was one of the many talking heads. A shorter version aired the week the movie debuted but this full version is richer as more people got to talk about the building of the various vehicles along with placing it historic context. Leave it to Denny O’Neill to also place the vehicle in a mythological context, tracing it back to the god’s sky chariots. Some terrific clips and some heart-tugging examples of how the Batmobile can bring joy to ill. This is a terrific piece and I’m glad to have been a part of it.

For those who bother, The Dark Knight Rises Second Screen app integration has replaced the once-standard picture-in-picture track. If you take the trouble to sync it all, you’ll get additional treasures and visuals that are worth a look.

Rounding out the package is the Trailer Archive (8:35), showing how the groundbreaking marketing was achieved, accompanied by the Print Campaign Art Gallery.

Nolan and company had a singular vision and while I may disagree with it, I was entertained by the trilogy and appreciate his refusal to repeat himself, keeping each film a separate piece of a larger story. The disc reminds me that when it’s good, it’s very, very good.

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


“The Dark Knight Rises” Comes to Home Video December 4

The Dark Knight Rises

On the off chance you missed it, the home video version of The Dark Knight Rises will be out December 4, just in time for the holiday season. Check out the sizzle video:


The Dark Knight Rises is the epic conclusion to filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. It has been eight years since Batman vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act. But everything will change with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar with a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane, a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane.

Own it on Blu-ray Combo Pack or Digital Download December 4.

David Selby Relocates from Collinsport to Gotham City

Having made his mark as a villain for many of his 45 years in the entertainment industry, David Selby is only too happy to provide the heroic voice of Commissioner James Gordon for Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1.

Selby is best known for his long-running roles as Quentin Collins, the werewolf brother to vampire Barnabus Collins on the original series Dark Shadows, and as the ruthless, vengeful Richard Channing on the 1980s primetime soap opera Falcon Crest. Between those two series alone, Selby logged more than 500 episodes as an antagonist.

Finally, Selby gets a beloved protagonist turn as the everyman hero James Gordon, a straight-shooting, intelligent lawman bent on doing what’s right … with the help of his old pal, Bruce Wayne (and his alter ego, Batman).

Selby will be in attendance on both coasts for the World and West Coast Premieres of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1. Selby is the lone actor on the September 20 post-screening panel at the Paley Center in New York, and he’ll be joined by co-stars Peter Weller and Ariel Winter for the panel discussion on Monday, September 24, at the Paley Center in Los Angeles.

After making his professional acting debut on Dark Shadows in 1968, Selby found fame on the large and small screens as well as Broadway. His film career runs the gamut from early starring roles opposite Barbara Streisand in Up The Sandbox and alongside Ron Liebman in The Super Cops to a memorable role as one of the key lawyers in The Social Network. On television, surrounding his 209 episodes of Falcon Crest, Selby has been seen on everything from The Waltons, Police Woman and Kojak to Ally McBeal, Cold Case, Mad Men, and HBO’s Tell Me You Love Me.

Selby is also one of the more learned actors around the industry, having earned a Master’s Degree from West Virginia University, and a Ph.D. in Theatre from Southern Illinois University. Beyond the stage and screen, Selby has written two volumes of poetry.

The affable Selby was happy to discuss his role as James Gordon following his initial recording session for the two halves of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Here’s what he had to say …

QUESTION: Having spent several hours in his mind, how do you see Police Commissioner James Gordon in this film?

DAVID SELBY: Because Bruce Wayne is Batman, and even though we all want to be heroes, Gordon is willing to take a quieter, more backseat role. I think he’s persistent, he’s calm. He’s a very practical man, like certain presidents. Lincoln was a very pragmatic guy, and I think Gordon is a very pragmatic commissioner.

Gordon is the type of guy that would think, “If I’ve gotta do it, and it’s going to make it right, and I look out and I know that my wife is going to be fine, and the children are going to be fine, then if a certain kind of justice is required to do this, I can live with it.” That’s my kind of Gordon. A very strong, practical guy.

QUESTION: In this film, James Gordon is 70 years old and about to retire. David Selby is now 70 years old. Usually it doesn’t matter in voice acting, but does that age similarity help increase the bond between actor and character?

SELBY: What are you saying? (laughs) That I’ve been playing this game for 50 years? (laughs harder) Well, I guess that’s true. You know the frustrations, the thinking of “Okay, I’ve got a few years to go, and there’s still one thing I want to do.” Maybe I want to play Macbeth. I don’t know. There’s definitely some parallels. Really, though, it’s the whole life experience – that’s the thing that ties me to Gordon. Having been around and seen what we’ve seen. I understand his frustrations. My God, all you have to do is pick up a bloody newspaper. It’s hard to not get frustrated. Sometimes the best thing to do is to avoid the paper in the morning.

QUESTION: Was there a centering emotion you used in James Gordon to help you focus on his motivations?

SELBY: For Gordon, what he wants to do more than anything in the world is that he wants to leave the world a little better place than when he came into it. And he thinks of how awful it would be to live your life and not be able to do that.

I like Gordon. Sometimes you have to draw the line in the sand, the morality line, and each of us has to decide how far you’re willing to go for success. Now if you’re battling the Mutants, you can go a long way. You can step over that line, as long as you know why you’re doing it. That’s my little take on that.

QUESTION: You had more than 300 episodes to get to know Quentin Collins for Dark Shadows. You spent 209 episodes creating Richard Channing for Falcon Crest. Today you had about four hours to become James Gordon. How do you develop a character that quickly?

SELBY: You don’t. You just sort of depend upon Andrea (Romano) and Bruce (Timm), because they know this territory far better than you. I did do a little research, though. I asked my son, who is a great aficionado of Frank Miller and all of these things. That was my first call. He gave me a great rundown, so there was a little preparation. So mostly you put yourself in the hands of those that know the character, and learn from their experience.

QUESTION: So your son is a Frank Miller fan. Do you have newfound street cred in the family?

SELBY: You can’t imagine. My son-in-law is a big fan, too. I’m in like flint now. I couldn’t have done better than to be able to make that call. “Do you know Dark Knight?” “What do you mean, do I know Dark Knight? Who do you think you’re talking to?” “Well, I’m playing the Commissioner.” “You’re playing James Gordon? You’re playing Gordon?!? Commissioner Gordon?!?!?” I never mentioned the Gordon’s name. (laughs) I just said the Commissioner. Oh my God. How special is that? I like that.

QUESTION: Did you read comics when you were a kid?

SELBY: We lived in a little community called Woodburn, where I grew up in Morgantown, West Virginia. There was a store down the street from where I grew up – a confectionary, you know, “beer on tap” – and they had a comic rack. Tom and Ann Torch owned the place – Tom would sit in the corner by the Coke machine and play checkers. And then guys would come in and order … Dewey would order egg in his beer, and all the regulars who lived in the neighborhood would be around. We could look in the comics, and they never once said “Put the comics down.” Now, once we graduated from comic books and went on to Sexology and Golden Nugget girls, then Ann and her sister Hortense got concerned. But as long as we stuck to the comics, it was okay, so I read all the comics. I’d also go two houses down to my friend Wally’s house – he had a lot of comics. But at the Richwood Confectionary, that was terrific place to grow up. Sit in there, drink a Nehi Orange for a nickel, and read your comics.

QUESTION: What was going on in 1966 that made it right for both Dark Shadows and Batman to premiere and explode in popularity?

SELBY: That was a special time in the 60s, and for whatever reasons these shows captivated the public’s imagination. Maybe we just needed it in the 60s. They were shows that allowed you to escape … shows that made life a little easier to cope. I think about New York City at that time and all the things that were going on. The corruption, the racial conflicts, the unrest at Columbia University. There were protests everywhere. Then there was Chicago, and the election in 1968. The assassination of Martin Luther King, the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. Vietnam was raging. And then you had these shows. I’m sure some sociologist is examining all of this and working it out. But I think those two shows, Batman and Dark Shadows, they fit that expression, “Whatever gets you through the night.” It is interesting that they both came out of that period. But maybe not. Maybe the times were right.

QUESTION: You’ve obviously had the experience. But do you like playing the villain?

SELBY: I’m not complaining – a lot of times the villain is the most interesting character. But I’ve played some awful people. I played a character who got rid of his own sister. In doing these characters, I like them, and you have to get your audience on your side somehow. They have to understand where you’ve come from. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll hang in there with you.

Watch an all-new clip from “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1”

batman-at-gunpoint-300x168-1004615This is an all-new clip from BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, PART 1 featuring The Mutant Leader giving his televised declaration of war on Gotham City, Commissioner Gordon and Batman. The Mutant Leader is voiced by Gary Anthony Williams, best known for his recurring roles on “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Boston Legal,” as well as voiceovers as Riff Tamsom on “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” Uncle Ruckus on “The Boondocks,” and Mongul in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold.” Williams’ casting as the bad-to-the-bone Mutant leader belies his true calling in comedy — he is co-founder and artistic director for the L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival in Hollywood.


BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, PART 1, the next entry in the popular, ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original Movies, arrives September 25, 2012 from Warner Home Video as a Blu-ray™ Combo Pack and DVD, On Demand and for Download. The PG-13 film is produced by Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation.

Martha Thomases: Health Care For Super-Heroes

The Supreme Court finally ruled on the Affordable Care Act. Hallelujah!  They went my way!

Now I don’t have to worry about that chance the court might strike down the individual mandate, which would mean my premiums would have gone up – in New York, if one is self-employed, one pays gigantic premiums. My worrying didn’t make the difference, however, so let’s consider something really important.

Can super-heroes get health insurance?

Barry Allen was already working for the police department when the lightning bolt caused those chemicals to drench him and made him The Flash. Usually, public employees get good insurance. He should be okay. We can only hope that Tea Party pressure hasn’t weakened his union’s negotiating power and force public workers to take a worse policy.

Bruce Wayne not only has enough money to pay any medical bills he might have out-of-pocket, but he also has Alfred on staff, who, in addition to his butler skills, also seems to be something of a battlefield surgeon.

Reed Richards is a doctor. Presumably, he can take care of many of his colleagues. Those he can’t might be cared for by Dr. Strange, or Dr. Mid-Nite.

But what about the others?

Once you’re bitten by a radioactive spider as a teenager, you have a pre-existing condition. And, as a self-employed person in New York (at least when he started freelancing at the Daily Bugle), Peter Parker probably got a policy with a high deductible, if he got a policy at all. Here’s hoping that radiation didn’t cause cancer along with a spider sense.

Can test pilots get insurance at all? Even if he wasn’t a Green Lantern, is Hal Jordan the kind of guy who could get a policy?

Among those without powers, masks or capes, there might be circumstances that make it difficult to get a coverage. It seems that just living in certain areas invites life-threatening accidents. I know that living in the New York area means I pay higher rates, so I guess most of the Marvel Universe does as well. Metropolis, Gotham, Coast City et al. are probably no bargain either.

Who pays for those over-worked emergency rooms, especially after an alien attack?

If ever there were places that could use single-payer health insurance, it’s the DC and Marvel Universes.

And me.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman Renders His Verdict