Tagged: Harley Quinn

Mindy Newell’s Year-End Bests And Worsts

So here we are at the end of 2014, which is the time for media folk to opine about the best and the worst of the year in all the different areas of our overcrowded, put-upon lives. So though I rarely think of myself as part of the media folk crowd, I’ll include me in that description for this column, since all of you have so kindly considered my words, thoughts, judgments, attitudes, and so forth important enough to peruse over the last twelve months.

So here we go, in no particular order, and not divided into “best” and “worst”…

I applaud Marvel Comics’ writer G. Willow Wilson (great name, by the way, so alliterative!) and artist Adrian Alphona for introducing the comics world to Kamala Khan, an American Muslim teenager from Jersey City, New Jersey. Kamala’s parents and family are traditional, observant Muslims (for the most part), but Kamala just wants to be what every teenage girl wants to be – not different from her peers. But she is. Not just because she’s Muslim. It’s because she’s also Ms. Marvel.

In a time when bigotry is rampant in these United States – our President is a Muslim Kenyan socialist dictator terrorist determined to destroy America, and, oh, by the way, he’s *gasp* B-L-A-C-K – I just absolutely love that the House of Ideas has embraced the opposite of the disease named xenophobia. There is no better cure.

Just a few weeks ago at my daughter’s birthday dinner, we got into a discussion of the state of music these days. I said that I think there is nothing out there that can compare to the music produced during the ‘60s, certainly nothing like the great concept albums of the Beatles, the Stones, and so forth. Not for the mass public, anyway. It’s all manufactured pop crap. Certainly nothing that is going to hold up to the test of time. Said brother Glenn, “So where do you think great popular art is being produced?”

“Television,” I said instantly. “We in a new ‘Golden Age.”

“When she’s right, she’s right,” said Glenn.

There’s been a lot of really fantastic television these days. Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Downton Abbey, Transparent, Outlander, and certainly comics are rocking our personal screens with The Flash, Arrow, Gotham, and Marvel’s Agents of Shield. But my vote for the best TV show of 2014 – as if regular readers can’t guess before I type out the letters – is Homeland.

Homeland not only made everyone forget – well, sort of – Brody (for more see my earlier column on the series here), but it amped up the tension to equal the heyday of 24 – and beat Jack Bauer at his own game by never forgetting that it is also a study of the emotional, and psychological scars borne by those who serve their patriotism in the coldest of wars.

Best taking on of a role already inhabited by fan favorites: Peter Capaldi as the Time Lord in Doctor Who. David Tennant and Matt Smith made indelible marks on the saga of the Gallifreyan, between them raising the Doctor into the realms of a worldwide phenomenon shared by only two modern myths – Star Trek and Star Wars. I can well imagine the trepidation with which Mr. Capaldi must have felt when he was given the keys to the TARDIS, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he hadn’t slept the night before the his debut premiered. But he made it his own; an original interpretation in which, im-not-so-ho, the Doctor had to figure out if, of if not, he’s a good man. “I don’t know,” said Clara. And I’m still not sure if the Doctor can accept that maybe he is, even if he did, at long last, salute Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.

Politics and World Affairs 101. (Hey, you know me – I wasn’t going to let this topic slip away.) This year was definitely one that went way beyond any introductory college course. The most “do-nothing” Congress in the history of this country, all based – again, im-not-so-ho, on the biases held against our President. (Reference first sentence in fourth paragraph of this column, please.) ISIS, jihadist Crusaders determined to raise the Ottoman Empire from the dust of history using beheadings with modern-day scimitars and social media propaganda, is the biggest threat to any type of peace in the Middle East – and the world – since Adolph Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers Party. And yes, that is really how I feel.

Meanwhile Vladimir Putin seems determined to lead a new Soviet Union – and for those who may point out that the Russian economy is in freefall…well, countries have gone to war because of failed domestic policies. And homosexuals in Russia are the new scapegoat, replacing Jews.

Best (and worst) on the domestic front this year. It seems to me that the American people have finally woken up and are marching in protest again against our own “black boots” (not to reference Nazis again, but…) who – shades of the pre-Civil Rights Act era – seem to feel they have a right to kill black men and anyone else who doesn’t “salute” them fast enough. I only hope the protests continue to the level of the social activism in which I grew up during the ‘60’s, and now dwindle away like the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Worst “Oh, God, I knew this was going to happen” moment: “The Mystery of Malaysian Flight 370” was televised on CNN. Just waiting for it to show up as an episode of “Ancient Aliens” sometime in 2015.

Dumbest comics controversy of 2014 (though I can understand the uproar) was that cover. Yeah, you know the one I mean. Jessica Jones as Spider-Woman with her ass up in the air.

The other dumb comics controversy – the stupidest, I mean – was DC’s decision not to allow Batwoman to marry her long-time love, civil rights lawyer Maggie Sawyer. Not only does it reek of bigotry and ignorance, not only does it go against the biggest non-issue in recent American history, i.e., gay marriage, but it’s based on an edict that “no DC superhero is allowed to be married” as “heroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives” because it would make for “less dramatic stories.” As if marriage is always a state of bliss. Um…no. And kudos to J.H. Williams and W. Haden Blackman for walking away from such ignoramity.

Most exposed comic character: Starfire. Once upon a time, back in the Wolfman-Pérez days of New Teen Titans, she was a nuanced character. Now she’s just…exposed.

Speaking of DC and stupidest. How about their contest concerning Harley Quinn? the company asked for tyro artists to draw a scene from Harley Quinn #0 which specifically asked for: “Harley sitting in a bathtub with toasters, blow dryers, blenders, appliances, all dangling above the bathtub and she has a cord that will release them all. We are watching the moment before her inevitable death. Her expression is one of, ‘Oh, well, I guess that’s it for me,’ and she has resigned herself to the moment is going to happen.”

Announced just before National Suicide Prevention Week.

Oh, wait, a lot of that happened in 2013.

Well, it’s still “worst of” bad news.

So what kind of stupidest stuff has DC done in 2014?

Turned Wonder Woman into a caricature of a feminist icon – whiney, spoiled, and bitchy.

Batgirl featured a literal “cartoon” of transgender characterization in the imposter Batgirl, who was actually a dangerous, deranged man. Um, btw, that’s not transgender. That’s cross-dressing. Either way, it was incredibly insulting to too many individuals. (The creative team of Brendan Fletcher, Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr apologized…and meant it.).

Merchandizing sexualized and insulting t-shirts with Superman “scoring” with Wonder Woman, and mottos like “Training To Be Batman’s Wife.”

Releasing a book for toddlers and early readers called “Superheroes Opposites” in which “Wonder Woman pushes a swing” with a little girl on it, while Superman, on the opposing page, “pulls the machine,” which looks like some combination of a Deere tractor and deep-sea oilrig. Anyway, it’s enormous and definitely very heavy. Yeah, I’ll be buying that book for my 15-month-old grandson soon.

DC sure isn’t Jenette Khan’s company anymore!

But DC didn’t just become the leading anti-feminist comics company in 2014. I found this at www.Whatculture.com:

2014 also saw DC leaning on some wonderfully old-school gimmicks to try and boost sales, including falling back into the nineties speculator boom trope of providing shiny covers to try and entice people into buying flagging books. They planned to provide 3D variant covers for climactic final issues of their year-long crossover event Future’s End, a process which apparently requires certain special chemicals.

One of which is called microcystin, and is highly toxic. Exactly the sort of thing you wouldn’t want to, say, get into a municipal water supply.” Woops, that’s exactly what happened though! Some sort of spill at the printing plant where the books were being published caused the deadly toxin to end up in Lake Eerie, which provides the water supply of eleven million coastal inhabitants in Northwestern Ohio.

Yes, DC poisoned the water supply of eleven million people. Lex Luthor would be proud.”

Okay, I’m sure DC comics weren’t the only books being published at the printing plant. But I just have three things to say:

How come stuff like this doesn’t happen at Marvel?

And, at least based on this list of “worsts,” I don’t think I’ll be working for DC anytime soon.

And, based on this list of “worsts,” I’m not sure I would want to.

 

Mike Gold: The Joker’s New Friend

I always wondered how World War II would have turned out if only Joseph Goebbels had a sense of humor. After all, what’s the old adage – you get more with a smile and a bomb than just a bomb alone? Really, the whole concept of Harley Quinn is based upon this philosophy.

You know Harley Quinn. The Joker’s… ah, paramour? Quadramour? Well, hold that thought for a couple paragraphs.

This is the start of the new fall television series, not only in North America, but evidently in Iraq as well. A new program, The Superstitious State, is being promoted up in the land between two rivers. It’s tagged “satire,” but it’s not going to close on Saturday night. Here’s the premise.

There’s this big celebration somewhere in some desert. It’s a wedding, although the focus is on the consummation of this blessed event. Don’t worry, it’s G-Rated, common for a Muslim nation that makes its media available to citizens of all ages. The idea is…

… jeez, I hope you’re sitting down…

(more…)

Emily S. Whitten’s Grand San Diego Adventure, part one

The San Diego Comic Con can be completely overwhelming. With panels, “experiences” (as they tend to call the activities set up outside of the Convention Center), pilot screenings, performances, and parties, it’s hard to know what to see first. And one of the craziest places to start is the floor of the Exhibit Hall. With wall-to-wall exclusives, freebies, announcements, signings, trailers, comics creators, scavenger hunts, merchandise, and maybe even a celebrity or two in disguise, it’s pretty much impossible to see everything, unless maybe that’s all you do for the entire con. And without fail, it’s also always a seething, writhing mass of other people who want to see or buy all of the same things you do.

I still love it, though. From accidentally walking through the same booth so many times you start to feel like it’s your second home until you realize you’ve actually never seen the part of it you’re standing in right now, to winding up in the completely wrong aisle from where you meant to be and discovering an awesome bit of merch, to running into a friend you totally never expected to see in the middle of the crowd, to seeing an amazingly clever cosplay, to taking silly pictures with booth displays (one of my favorite things to do), it’s just fun. And while I certainly didn’t see everything, here are some of the coolest things I experienced this year.

  • The trailer and announcement for the Disney Infinity Games Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy play set. I just happened to be wandering by the Marvel booth on preview night in time to catch this, and it really does look awesome. From the trailer, the one I’m most looking forward to playing is Groot, but Rocket Raccoon and the others look fun too. (You can watch the trailer here.)  I also was on the spot at the right moment to get a free Star-Lord design poster and Groot mask signed by artist Jon Diesta, which was pretty sweet (I guess I was the first person to ask him to sign the foam mask. We discovered it wasn’t easy). I’m glad I happened on that when I did, because every other time I walked by the Marvel booth over the weekend it was such a madhouse that I couldn’t even step into the booth area! Oh, except that I did see the most epic Marvel battle scene that has ever been, in toy format. Whoever set this up is clearly a well-versed Marvel nerd who thought of every detail, from Professor X’s chair hanging in the air to Deadpool just chillin’ while chaos ensued around him. I luff you, Marvel nerd. Also I want to play with this.
  • The Hasbro booth, including the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic photo op, simply because I love taking silly pictures and this may be my favorite silly picture of the weekend. They had several scenes and speech bubbles to choose from, for maximum silliness. Well played, Hasbro. I also got a cute free MLP poster and coveted their Spider-Man toys. (That mask is cool.)
  • Sideshow Collectibles!! I barely even know where to start with this booth. Every single thing was awesome, from the Back to the Future set to the gigantic Doctor Doom that so needs to be the first thing to greet people  in my foyer if I ever have one, to the Captain America movie figures and the life-sized Han Solo in Carbonite that you could win. But the most important thing to me was the Deadpool (!!!!!). Because you guys, they are making a Sixth Scale Deadpool, and he looks amazing. :D :D :D :D :D (Seriously, I can’t express my level of joy at this without emoticons. I’m that speechlessly happy. Also I need this immediately. When does it come out??)
  • The excellent cosplays. There were many, many cool costumes on the floor. A few of my favorites were this cute classic Harley Quinn (with smiley purse!); this Skipper from Penguins of Madagascar (he actually looks like he could be an official one? I don’t know. Either way, nice!); this picture-perfect New 52 Wonder Woman (she looked adorable with the Tonner Doll Company Wonder Woman, and made the entire thing, from leather to metalwork!); this clever Hamburglar (Hee!); this pair of Jay Garrick Flashes; this Discworldian Moist von Lipwig (someone said, “Is that a Snitch?” but I recognized him immediately. Yay, Discworld fans!); and this cute Little Mermaid family (that Ursula is boss).
  • San Diego GirlsThe DC Comics booth, celebrating 75 years of Batman with neat displays and a variety of custom-designed cowls like this Harley Quinn one. They also had several of the DC Bombshells statuettes on display. Even though I totally recognize the cheesecake-y sexism of pin-up girls and part of me wants to be peeved about these, I can’t help but think they are a really well-done homage to a time gone by, and kind of adorable (and hey, compared to all of the blatant and tasteless attempts to sell comics through sex and female exploitation or dehumanization these days, these feel positively classy). They also had a great depressed Batman statue in the middle, àla the new Ben Affleck Batman, which allowed for some more statue pose picture silliness. You can’t keep me down, emo Batman!
  • The Darth Vader Hot Wheels car. Who thought of this? Who did?? You get a prize. Also? I want one. To drive. And I will park it right next to the life-sized Funko Pop! Rocket Raccoon I plan to install on my lawn.
  • This thing. No, I don’t know what it is or what it is from or why there is a little floating demon joystick-driving its brain. It is just adorable and creepy and I love it. It can hang out with my Rocket Raccoon. They can be life-sized lawn gnome best buddies, and maybe have cute but disturbing adventures at night when no one is looking.
  • Life-sized Star Wars Rebels! I like Hera. She looks sassy. Like she will pwn you and not put up with your nonsense. I hope this is the case. Also she is voiced by Vanessa Marshall. Sweet!
  • Con exclusive merch! Like this Deadpool Mr. Potato Head, this glow-in-the-dark White Lantern Flash, this Harley Quinn purse (with bells!), this Firefly Leaf on the Wind keychain/necklace, this too-adorable-for-words Catbug plush, this ghost Yoda bank, and this fiercely adorable Final Battle Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon 2.

Aaaaaand, that’s all, folks! Well, all of the stuff I can remember from the con floor. (Full photo set here) But I have plenty more to report on from SDCC, including fun panels, parties, and press interviews. So stay tuned for more, and until next time, Servo Lectio!

Part Two of Emily’s Grand Adventure will appear right here at ComicMix.com this Thursday!

Mike Gold: This’ll Kill You

Gold Art 120918I believe a person has the right to commit suicide. No matter who says what, suicide might very well be our only inalienable right. Sixteen religious leaders, your entire family, all of your friends and all of your enemies can get together, kidnap you and hold an “intervention” (that’s sort of a pop-psych séance), and when all is said and done, you can still jump off a cliff.

But even I would admit that holding a suicide-themed contest is gauche. And, hey, I’m a punk rock fan.

Our friends over at DC Comics (who are now looking up “friend” in their online dictionaries) decided to run a new talent contest. According to their own web page “Harley Quinn is no stranger to a little breaking and entering for a good time and now, she’s going to help one talented artist break into comics with DC Entertainment’s Open Talent Search. That’s right, we’re looking for someone to draw one page of Harley Quinn #0 alongside some of comic’s most amazing talents, including Amanda Conner, Paul Pope, Bruce Timm, and a few other surprises, maybe even you!… If you think you’ve got what it takes to be published in this special issue, then put on your working hat and start drawing now, because an opportunity like this doesn’t come along very often.”

And, from that same page, here’s part of what they want you to draw: Page 15, Panel 4 – “Harley sitting naked in a bathtub with toasters, blow dryers, blenders, appliances all dangling above the bathtub and she has a cord that will release them all. We are watching the moment before the inevitable death. Her expression is one of “oh well, guess that’s it for me” and she has resigned herself to the moment that is going to happen.”

Actually, being familiar with both the character and the issue’s creators, I get the gag. Maybe that’s because the concepts of suicide and death doesn’t horrify me. Or maybe I’ve just got the same perverted sense of humor as writer Jimmy Palmiotti, artist Amanda Conner, and Co-Publisher Dan DiDio. But if you don’t frequent the Comic Book Donut Shop, it’s possible you just might not get it.

Here’s a couple thousand people who don’t get it: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychiatric Association and National Alliance on Mental Illness released a joint statement saying this whole thing sucks. To wit: “We believe that instead of making light of suicide, DC Comics could have used this opportunity to host a contest looking for artists to depict a hopeful message that there is help for those in crisis. This would have been a positive message to send, especially to young readers.”

Young readers? Really? Drop by a comic book shop sometimes, you cloistered shrinks.

The fact that the contest was announced a few days before the beginning of National Suicide Prevention Week probably didn’t help one bit. The story achieved national attention. You’d think Harley Quinn had just covered Ice-T’s “Cop Killer.”

DC Comics issued the typical mealy-mouthed apology “to anyone who was offended” (I hate that phrase; it sounds like being offended was the object’s fault and not the culprit’s), and Jimmy offered a much more sincere and explanatory apology, which was the right thing to do.

There are a lot of things one can’t rationally discuss in the commercial world without provoking kneejerk overreaction. After a lifetime in youth crisis intervention work, I can safely express the informed opinion that just about everybody who would have read Harley Quinn and then offed themselves already was a basket case waiting to take the pipe. You cannot bring down our mass media to the lowest common denominator.

However, given the fact that we live in a world where parents of a teenage suicide would sue a rock band for being responsible for their kid’s death despite the fact that literally tens of millions of others routinely and safely listened to that same song, DC’s move was unwise.

This column first appeared Monday at www.MichaelDavisWorld, a wonderful place where people speak their minds and everybody but Martha Thomases swears a lot.

Mike Gold performs the weekly two-hour Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind ass-kicking rock, blues and blather radio show on The Point, www.getthepointradio.com, every Sunday at 7:00 PM Eastern, rebroadcast three times during the week – check the website above for times and on-demand streaming information. Mike Gold is cool. No, wait. That’s fezes. Fezes are cool. Until the end of the year.

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: Martin Pasko

 

Emily S. Whitten: Sturm und Drang and a Bit of Darkness

Before I get down to today’s main topic, I want to say that I’m thinking of all who may be in difficulties or have suffered damage or loss due to Hurricane Sandy. I know a lot of comics pros (and fans!) live in NYC, which was pretty hard-hit, and I hope that most of you there and everywhere else made it out of the storm with minimal inconvenience.

As it turns out, at least one of our community did not fare so well. NYC-area comics artist J.K. Woodward (of Peter David’s Fallen Angel and more) and his wife Monica lost pretty much everything in the hurricane. Darrell Taylor and J.K. have a weekly podcast called J.K.’s Happy Hour, and this week it’s all about the craziness that J.K. and Monica went through. You should seriously listen to it, because it’s nuts. (I got to, “The couch started lifting up and floating, and we realized we were fucked,” and I just started laughing in horrified disbelief, even though it’s really not funny. It’s just that unbelievably crazy. And J.K. is funny, even in the midst of his loss.)

In the aftermath of that, J.K. and Monica are trying to find a new place to live and to replace basically their whole lives (right down to their clothes! Yikes!), and they could really use some help. To help finance a new home, car, and household items, J.K. is selling original art here. Or, if you’d like to help them out but would prefer to give directly, they also have a PayPal account at jkwoodward1205@gmail.com. Alternatively, if you want to donate clothes (J.K. is an XL in mens’ tees) or household items, through at least December they can be sent to: J.K. Woodward, c/o Reiss Studios, 4301 22nd Street, Studio 206, Long Island City, NY 11101.

You can also keep up with how they are doing and any updates as to what help they might need at J.K.’s blog. It must be terrible to lose everything like that; but hopefully some of us in the community can help them get back on their feet!

And, now, onward to something a little creepy – which is appropriate, as I was reading it right before Halloween. “It” being a review copy of the graphic adaptation of actor Thomas Jane’s movie Dark Country, which is now available in hardback. Both the movie and the graphic novel are based on a twisty little story written by Tab Murphy. The graphic novel is published by RAW Studios, founded by Thomas Jane (The Punisher, The Mist, Hung) and in partnership with Eisner Award nominated illustrator/production designer Tim Bradstreet (The Punisher, Hellblazer, Criminal Macabre) and a crew of talented creators.

I admit I haven’t seen the movie (although now that I’ve read the graphic novel, I may just do so). So this review is all about the new hardback graphic novel, which actually contains three distinct parts: a “silent” scratchboard-style graphic story by Swiss artist Thomas Ott, the original short story by Tab Murphy, and a collection of information and images related to the making of the film.

I haven’t encountered that many silent comics before; although memorably, Frank Tieri’s Deadpool #61 in the “Funeral for a Freak” storyline (appropriately entitled “‘Nuff Said”) is one, and is very well done. But the Dark Country silent comic is very impressive – both in the unique style of art, which is alternately beautiful and ominous or even gruesome; and in the way it’s able to tell the story without a spoken word from any character. Done all in black and white, Ott’s style is pretty interesting (samples can be seen here), being simultaneously very precise and detailed, and diffuse due to the scratchboard technique. The style also contributes to the noir-ish mood of the story and to the impending sense of dread as it unfolds. It’s definitely a striking artistic work and story.

Reading Tab Murphy’s original short story is a slightly different experience, but no less enjoyable if you like suspense and horror. If you haven’t encountered the story before, I won’t spoil it for you; but I will say, it’s an interesting little tale with a weird twist that’s hard to get out of your mind; one of the kind that you want to read through again after you’ve finished it, to see how your own perception of the plot has changed. It starts out with a newly married couple driving from Vegas to Albuquerque through the desert at night, and gets ominous when they encounter a body in the road. I’m not a horror fan in the sense of “blood, guts, and slasher films.” What I do like, though, are psychological thrillers and stories that are terrifying because of their puzzles, twists, or dark mysteries; and this is something along those lines, and certainly worth a read if you enjoy that genre.

The third part of the hardback package is almost fifty pages of materials from the making of the movie, like background, storyboards, production notes, and still photos. Despite not having seen the film, I found this part really interesting. It’s a glimpse into Thomas Jane and Co’s creative process during production, in a detail I haven’t encountered before (being as most of my “behind the scenes” reading about movie production has been done piecemeal and by happenstance while clicking around online). From discussions about the influence comic books had on Jane’s vision to the process of making the film in 3-D to concept art and storyboards, there’s a lot to digest here, and it gives a nice glimpse into the development of a film from concept to screen. Also there are some great bits of art by David Allcock scattered about.

Altogether, the compilation of these things is pretty cool; and if you’re a fan of the movie or of noir, horror, suspense, or some combination of those things, I’d think this would be a neat addition to your collection. Just don’t read it before bedtime, or you might find yourself unable to escape dreaming of the Dark Country.

Wishing you all a sleep free of nightmares, and until next time, Servo Lectio!

E.T.A. And to wrap up on Halloween-themed things, it so happens that I have just entered my Arkham City Harley Quinn costume in a little contest. Winners get cool comics prizes! So if anyone is so inclined, please feel free to vote for me once a day through November 14, and maybe I can win! (In which case, I would most certainly choose the Harley Quinn prize. It’s only fitting). Thanks!!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis and The Adventures Of Black-Man!

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Why Mike Gold Didn’t Cold-Cock Walter Simonson

 

Emily S. Whitten: More Arrow, and Hooray Halloween!

Never let it be said that I won’t change my mind if circumstances change. In that vein, I’m starting today’s column with a little addition to last week’s thoughts on Arrow.

 (Warning: Spoilers ahead!)

After writing about how things in the first two episodes seemed too crowded and rushed, and how I wish they’d slow down a bit and also give Arrow a few challenges to the thus-far routine of “Ollie targets bad guy, Ollie triumphs over bad guy,” Arrow turned around and gave me exactly what I was asking for. Sure, I still wish they’d taken more time to mine the experience of the first few days/weeks of his return from nowhere (sort of like how Elementary managed not to pile on every revelation about Holmes’s and Watson’s pasts and presents right up front, as I mention in my Elementary review here). And I still think the voiceovers are overly melodramatic, and in fact may be the thing that’s jarred me out of enjoying the show the most so far; but it feels like with episode three, the show is now hitting its stride.

For one thing, they actually gave Arrow an adversary worth a few minutes time, i.e. Deadshot, who throws Ollie off his game and wings his bodyguard, Dig. True, Ollie gets the easy upper hand by using his standing as, apparently, a captain in the Russian mob (eh??) to find Deadshot, and then takes him down reasonably quickly – but at least it wasn’t all smooth sailing this week. For another, they introduced a new step in Ollie’s playboy disguise – opening a nightclub to cover his secret base – without resolving it magically in one episode (I was half expecting the final scene to be opening night at the club or something). And finally, they’ve slowed their roll on the character drama to what feels like a more manageable and real life pace, focusing mostly this episode on Arrow beginning to build a bond of trust with Detective Lance (woo!) and Thea being a willful teen headache to everyone around her. Plus there was a bar fight that involved Laurel beating the crap out of a dude, which was killer and by far my favorite scene of the episode.

Happily, it looks like they may also be giving themselves an in to address the voiceover issue, by giving Arrow a confidante in the wounded Dig (and just in time too, as my friends and I were beginning to suggest other possible solutions, such as Arrow getting a new sidekick, Quiver. He would look like this). I hope so, as that could introduce more humor or banter into the show. I’d like to see the grimness tempered with an occasional sense of adventure and fun, as well as more of an open emotional connection to someone from Ollie, and maybe with Dig knowing his secret, that will come to pass.

Until then, I’ll keep watching, and amusing myself by trying to spot the new extreme form of exercise Ollie does each episode (this time, it was lifting a ridiculous amount of weight via a pulley system-thing). I’m hoping they’ll keep including those, so I can turn them into a game like spot-the-pineapple in Psych. I’m also hoping the next Easter egg for comics fans is a character named O’Neil (or possibly Denny?) after ComicMix’s very own Dennis O’Neil. C’mon, writers! I’m sure an absent-minded Perfesser character would come in handy for exposition and the like. Do it!

 (End of spoilers!)

In other news, Halloween is just around the corner, which brings me great joy and the usual expectation of going to parties where no one recognizes my costume. Just kidding! I guess I’m still slightly bitter about the time I went out in Georgetown as Black Canary and exactly zero people got it (although there were three votes for Lady Gaga since I wasn’t wearing pants. Sigh.) I can’t complain too much about that, though, because I had fun with it, and it did inspire this awesome sketch by amazing comics artist John K. Snyder III. Yay!

Despite the Philistine-like character of some mundanes in DC, as an adult and convention costumer I love that Halloween provides an opportunity for all the local geeks to strut their stuff without (much) comment from everyone else. Sure, when I go out tomorrow night, I expect the usual round of gangsters, zombies, “sexy” whatevers, and that guy who always shows up dressed as himself with a nametag. But Friday night on the Metro I ran into a matched pair of Trekkies, and they were swiftly followed by a full-grown Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. And nobody in this usually stuffy town blinked an eye – or at least, if they did, you could tell by the look in said eye that they were admiring the costumes, not sneering at them.

Given that when I’m on my home turf my life is caught up in my full-time professional job, my professional commitments, and more, I don’t get to do as many local geek things as I’d like – and a lot of my genre friends are folks I’ve met at cons, and live far away. So it’s nice to have the reminder that actually, there are a lot of locals who love the same things I do (and to maybe meet some of them as we’re making the rounds, nerd flags flying high). It makes my geeky little soul happy to be out and about in the neighborhood, shining that geek light with costumes I made for conventions, even if most of the people out there don’t know who I’m supposed to be because it’s a comic book character don’t any of you people at this dance club read comics geeeeez.

Therefore, I plan to keep on representin’ for us comics fans at Halloween this year with the Arkham City Harley Quinn costume I described the construction process for in an earlier column and made for Dragon*Con, which turned out like this, in case anyone was wondering (with bonus Lego Poison Ivy!). And happily, my friend actually discovered that the club we’re planning to go to has the perfect theme – Haunted Mental Ward – so for tomorrow night, I went the extra mile (okay, inch) and also made this. I’m hoping that this year, at least a few people get my costume; but the funny thing is that, if they don’t, I kind of don’t care. Because Halloween is a fun time to go out wearing whatever the hell you want and have some fun with it, and that’s exactly what I plan to do.

What about the rest of you? Any exciting Halloween plans? Great costumes? Feel free to share in the comments (with pictures! Pictures are great!) and I hope that everyone has a fun, and safe, and slightly spoooooky Halloween!

And until next time, Servooooooo Lectiooooooo!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis Pontificates

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold Hands Out Marching Orders

 

Marc Alan Fishman: Comic Books – Where A Kid Can Be a Kid

So the other day, in my second life, I was discussing Unshaven Comics with a coworker. He’d just read our first two issues of Disposable Razors. Suffice to say, these early issues of ours were geared towards our peers – violent, misogynistic, foul-mouthed, and raunchy fun. He then asked me about the next issue, featuring the Samurnauts.

“Dude. Why did you go kiddie?”

“Simple,” I retorted. “I’m still a kid.”

Deep down, beard be damned, I’m still 12. I can’t walk into a Target / Wal-Mart / Meijer without taking a detour through the toy aisle. My DVR is as full of worthless NBC comedies as it is high quality cartoons. And to a degree, my continuing love for comics in general fulfills that childish need for escapism that obviously will never leave me.

Beyond myself though, I am lucky to be surrounded by two others who share the exact same mentality. We Unshaven Lads make no bones about it… at our core we’re far more interested in giant robots, Kirby krackle, and figuring out the relative power levels of various Power Rangers than the latest polling data, Iranian diplomacy, and the relative cost of bathroom tissue. Suffice to say it was a no-brainer that we’d eventually strike gold by tapping into those roots and pulling out The Samurnauts. Iran be damned.

And what’s truly refreshing? Being able to share our book with everyone. From kids to teens to adults, no one is safe; kung fu monkeys and zombie-cyborg space pirates makes everyone giggle. And when they read the issue and see we do it without having to wink and nudge our audience? Well, that’s when we show that this isn’t just for a gag. Frankly, it’s what’s missing throughout much of mainstream comic books these days. Yup. I’m going there.

You see, when I was growing up (frankly, not all that long ago) we were already knee-deep into the Angst-Era of comics. There was a hard line: either you spurted blood and boobs all over the page or you dubbed your book for kiddies, and neutered everything about it, quality included. And despite the relative universal success of titles like Tiny Titans, Super Dinosaur, and dare I suggest Fables, most books on the shelf still seem to be stuck in a rage. But at the same time Spawn was murdering the comic book world, there was an epiphany in kid-level fiction; animation.

I was truly blessed to grow up on what I consider is the truest golden age of cartoons – Batman: The Animated Series, Superman, the X-Men, and my personal favorite Exo-Squad. All employed the most basic tactic that elevated the term all-ages to an unforeseen level of quality. Simply put, these series all decided it was easier to tell a great story, than worry about talking down to kids. And as a kid, I recognized it.

Here were cartoons that dealt with war, murder, politics, government, ethics, and god knows what else. And sure, there were batarangs, guest stars like Lobo, the Dark Phoenix saga, and Neo-Sapien uprisings, but they were presented and treated without a hip wink at the camera. And because of it, when I turned to the world of comics, I gravitated towards Alan Moore, early Frank Miller, John Ostrander, and Denny O’Neil. Here were guys giving me the same credit as Bruce Timm, and Paul Dini, all without having to plunge their books into infinite sadness and meaningless quarrels.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a touch of the ultra-violence. But when its used every other issue, it deadens the impact. DC especially seems to be marred in grit and angst again, and because of it I’m down to less than half the subscriptions I enjoyed a little over a year ago. The best ongoing title in recent memory was Fantastic Four, which in and of itself was too kind to not spend all its time with gnashed teeth. Meanwhile, Harley Quinn is being plunged into a vat of acid and donning a corset as a costume. Maybe the kid in me is just sick and tired of rape, death, cursing, and thigh pouches in my cape’n’cowls every week, in an effort to boost sales. Maybe it’s why I spend my time amidst future space stations and pirate ships when it’s time for me to give back to the world of comic books.

Now if you’ll excuse me… I need to go load up my Nerf guns. Thundercats is on.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander on Comics

 

Emily S. Whitten: The Construction of a Convention Costume

Dragon*Con is right around the corner, and if you’re going and you like to costume at cons, that means you’re probably scrambling to finish up your costume(s). Well, okay, that’s true if you’re me, at least. See, I’d like to plan really far ahead, but Life just doesn’t make that possible sometimes, which is how I often find myself finishing a costume’s jewelry the same morning I’m putting on the costume; attempting to dye corsets to their “authentic movie costume color” at 3 a.m. in hotel bathtubs (in a leak proof plastic bag; don’t worry, hotels); begging people to lend me last minute bits and pieces; and occasionally even enlisting roommates to help me make things when really they should be downstairs eating the complimentary hotel breakfast (bless you, Erica).

In June I wrote a column on women and costuming, in which I made the point that there are numerous reasons women costume (as opposed to the often-posited-by-men-reason of costuming to attract a man’s attention). For me, the actual making or putting together of the costume, as complicated and time-consuming as it can sometimes be, is a main reason why I costume. I like the challenge of making something coherent and recognizable and as authentic or creative as possible out of bits and pieces of craft supplies and found items and regular store-bought items that I can adapt.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, recently there’s been a great deal of talk about women and costuming from other quarters, including from people in the fandom who honestly ought to know better than to attack women about how they choose to celebrate their geekdom at a con, and whether they have the right to dress as they please without checking in with menfolk first (hint: the answer is yes). I don’t know why some geek men think they have some sort of prerogative to dictate these things, as if they were somehow “there” first, planting a flag on top of Geek Mountain and thus earning the right to lay out the rules and whine about people who don’t meet their “standards” of who should be allowed at a con or accepted as a geek; but it’s patently ridiculous.

Regardless, that kerfuffle was far from the first time the suggestion that women costume only to attract male geeks and get sexual attention reared its silly head. And both to further illustrate that suggesting this is pretty silly (because putting together a costume is a lot of work, and most women undoubtedly have to enjoy actually doing it, or they wouldn’t bother just for the minimal (supposed) payout of some random dude hitting on them at a con) and because I like talking about making things, let’s explore the process of producing a convention costume, and how I go about it.

I’ve talked about putting together costumes before, but for this column, we’re going to look at my biggest challenge for Dragon*Con: Arkham City Harley Quinn, and the steps involved in developing that costume.

Step 1: Accuracy

The first thing I do with any costume is decide exactly how I want it to look. In some cases, some of the look is up to my imagination, because I’m going as a literary character who has a basic description but no picture (see: the young Duchess of Quirm), or a mythical character who’s already been interpreted in umpteen different ways (see: the Absinthe Fairy); but when I work from a character who’s been visualized, I like to try to stick to the image and get the details right. Therefore, for Harley Quinn, I spent, oh, countless hours on Google searching for every picture I’d need to get an accurate costume supply list. In Harley’s case, this turned out to be seventeen pictures from all angles and with close-ups for detail; and about thirty pictures of how other people were interpreting the outfit as a costume, to give me construction ideas. Then I study the collection and list out the individual costume pieces needed and each detail of how they are made, including for accessories and make-up. For the Harley costume, this list totaled approximately twenty-seven items, several of which are very unique – a fairly complicated costume.

Step 2: The Hunt

Once I have my list, I need to make or find every item. Sometimes it’s easy – like buying white make-up, which is in every costume store. Sometimes it’s super-hard – like Harley Quinn’s complicated corset, which is hard to make and not similar to something you’d find anywhere else. Here’s how my quest for Harley’s bits and bobs is going:

The make-up is easy, and I’m about 2/3 finished with acquiring it. Since you can get all of it in places like Sephora or costume stores, I usually don’t worry about it first. The hair color and tattoos on the costume are harder; I’ve had to special-order colored hair spray, and am going to attempt to recreate the tattoos with a combination of rose temporary tattoos and face paint (since I couldn’t find any Joker temp tattoos that would work).

Harley’s clothes are pretty complicated. I knew from the start that the corset was beyond my skill to master in the time I had to try making it, so as soon as I settled on the costume, I searched around and found someone to custom make it – though I try to avoid that generally, because it can be pricey. As time went on I searched online for boots that matched the general cut of Harley’s and acquired them in black; to be adapted. I found a bra with the proper eyelet lace at yet another online store and speedily acquired it as well. For her pants and cropped top, I first thought to make them from whole cloth; then decided it would be easier to adapt ready-made clothes, and headed over to my favorite basic costuming bits store, American Apparel. There I acquired red and black tank tops and black leggings; to be adapted. I needed to get both shirt and pants from one store so the reds would be the same shade. Tragically, my local shop was out of the correct red pants. “No worries!” I thought. “I’ll just order them from the online store. Tragically again, though, the online store only had XS; which would be a pretty tight fit for me. Therefore it was back to the internets! until I managed to find what was apparently the one remaining pair in the proper size that would ship in time. Whew!

Harley’s accessories are a mix and match of easy and hard to gather. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find leather cuffs with the correct pyramid studs; so I had to acquire the cuffs and studs separately. The gloves would be impossible to find ready-made, so instead I made a pilgrimage to JoAnn Fabrics, where I acquired bolts of the red and black pleather material from which the corset was made. The hair-ties will also be made from that. The buckled choker was found after much searching on Amazon, and had to be ordered twice after they ran out the first time. The belt chain was acquired at the craft store; and as I was writing this column I realized I hadn’t yet ordered the belt (oops!) and so went on over to get that (costume-making in real time!). Glad I’m writing this, or I might have left that bit until too late!

Step 3: Crafting

As you might guess, much of the above needs to be worked with or adapted to match Harley’s look. The pants and shirt are going to be hacked, slashed, and Frankensteined via experimentation into black/red combos; buttons from JoAnn’s will be added to the shirt, and the pants need diamonds, and have an additional weird brown belt-sort-of-thing that needs to be sewn on as well. The bra needs to be covered with the red and black pleather and stitched to match the image. The boots will be painted with fabric paint to match the color and design of Harley’s boots. Extra holes need to be added to the choker for proper fit. The pyramid-stud cuffs need to be assembled; and the gloves and hair-ties will be made entirely from scratch using the red and black pleather and elastic. In short – it’s a lot of work (but it will get done in time. I hope).

Step 4: Troubleshooting

It’s always a good idea to try on the whole shebang before a con. Inevitably, something will not fit right, or won’t look right, or the make-up won’t be the right color after all, or something will fall off, or…who-even-knows what. I always try on the whole costume when I’m done, and things still sometimes go screwy on the morning of a con. So it’s really good to try to prevent what you can with a pre-con trial run.

Step 5: VICTORY!

I shall wear my awesome costume to a con and be so proud. Woo-hoo!

Well! As can be seen from the above, costume-making can be fun, but is also time-consuming and complicated. The more I do it, the more I realize there are things I can still learn about how to do it better. I hope some of you other costume-y folks out there liked hearing about my process, and I’m always interested in learning how other people make their costumes, or any tips and tricks they may have. Feel free to share in the comments.

And as for those (frequently men) who’ve raised the argument about women costuming for sexual attention in the past, or still believe that it’s a single motivator for women who costume; read the above again, think about how much time and effort people put into making their costumes, and instead of assuming you know everything about everything or it’s All About You, have a little respect for their hard work, skills, and creativity.

Until next time: Servo Lectio!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis’s Milestones

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold – Joe Kubert, Personally

Emily S. Whitten: Women and Costuming

I came at fandom costuming (or cosplay, or whatever term you want to go by) from a pretty sideways angle. The entire purpose of the first set of convention costumes I ever wore was to advertise, for three days straight, the first North American Discworld Convention, of which I was a co-founder, and which took place back in 2009.

 (Side note: registration for NADWCon2013 is now open. Discworld fans: come to Baltimore next year and join the fun!)

All three of us co-founders were attending the 2008 UK Discworld Con, both to get an idea of how they ran their con (for the two of us who hadn’t been to a Discworld Con before) and to spread the word about our new con. The one co-founder who had been to the UK Con before happened to be a talented costumer – I mean the kind who can actually sew together outfits from scratch – and she convinced me that I should costume too, to call attention to our con and encourage UK attendees.

In the Discworld there’s a character named Moist von Lipwig (pronounced LipVIG, of course, for any ignorant heathens out there), and he wears a brilliant cloth-of-gold suit, both to look flash and get attention, and to represent, in the minds of the people of Ankh-Morpork (main city of Discworld) the avatar of the failing post office as he tries to pull it from the ruins of neglect and make it successful again. Therefore, my co-founder had decided that for maximum attention she should do a female version of this – an amazing cloth-of-gold-looking Victorian walking suit, patterned with the turtles I had designed for our convention symbol. She looked freakin’ amazing. As for me, I was, well, shall we say, a bit more lazy.

Nevertheless, at her prompting I decided to do something in gold to match her and garner us more attention as we walked around together, but to stay a little more within my costuming skill set (which was almost zero at that point). Think of something I could cobble together by just buying a bunch of stuff that somehow coordinated into a “costume.” Between the two of us we came up with the idea of me going around as a flashy “Band With Rocks In” groupie (a band featured in Soul Music, the first Discworld book I ever read); with a t-shirt of the Band that advertised their “North American Discworld Convention” world tour. This is how I ended up wearing gold go-go boots, gold fishnets, and a ridiculously short and tight gold miniskirt all over a convention for three days. Also gold leather jewelry. And a gold bag shaped like a guitar. Rock!

So, you know: the first time I ever costumed at a con I was flashy and I wore a tiny miniskirt and that was solely to get attention. For a convention, not for myself, but still. Why am I talking about this now? Because there have been, and continue to be, a lot of interesting discussions about women and costuming at comic cons and related geeky cons, and why we wear what we wear, and whether it’s for the love of the fandom, or the love of putting together awesome outfits, or to get attention for our skills, or to get attention as sex objects (the most prominent theory and/or wish fulfillment thought in circulation). And after reading this blog post and a number of related ones that discuss primarily the “sex object” angle, I feel this merits further discussion.

That so many people seem to think women have only one motivation for wearing convention costumes that happen to be “skimpy” or “sexy” or whatever bothers me and implies some pretty negative things about the way women are viewed in comics and geek fandom. Women are more complex than that, y’all. Really we are. We have many motivations for what we do, and they don’t all boil down to “trying to get some dude’s attention.” Assuming that the purpose of a woman wearing an attractive costume is solely to garner attention as a sex object also removes those women, in the minds of those making the assumption, from the general group of fans who are at the convention to geek out with other fans and have fun, and places them in another, dehumanizing category – things there just to be looked at. And sometimes, as geek gals just wanting to have awesome geek conversations with other fans, that really spoils our fun.

While I certainly don’t take issue with women who do wear skimpy outfits for male attention, or deny that as one motivation for such convention wear, I have great concern about the attitude, particularly in the already heavily male-centric comics fandom, that the purpose and/or function of women in costume is just to look hot for all the random dudes in the crowd.

I’m not pulling this attitude out of thin air. I’ve encountered it personally, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. For example, after telling a very nice guy friend (i.e. not a sexist jerk or something) that I was working on some costumes for the next con I attend, I was reminded that “sexy is popular.” When I joked that just for that comment, I was going to go dressed as a down comforter, he responded that this would be a waste for “all those guys looking at” me. But…see, awesome as my friend is, he was missing the point. I am not primarily costuming for “all those guys looking at me” (at least, not in that sense. I always like people appreciating the effort I put into a costume, of course). Nor is that something I should be required to do for my costume to be admired at a comic/fandom con. I mean, sure, I like my costumes to look attractive – I always like to look nice. And I’m not going to faint in shock if I’m walking around in a miniskirt and guys happen to approve. It’s a miniskirt. They’re guys. There’s a Pavlovian response at work there, and I’m not naïve about it.

Obviously I don’t want people to think I’m unattractive – who would? But my point is that when I sit down to create a costume, I’m not thinking, “…and then I’ll wear the short skirt, because guys think that’s hot.” No, if I wear the short skirt, it’s because, say, the skirt is authentic to the costume. Or it calls to mind the stereotype of a band groupie at a rock concert. Or it’s floofy, and I just love wearing floofy things. And that’s as it should be.

I can’t speak for the motivations of every female costumer out there, but just for kicks and education, let’s look briefly at the motivations behind a few of the costumes I’ve worn or will be wearing to cons that someone out there might assume I’m just wearing to get a guy’s attention. In numbered list format, because Deadpool approves of numbered lists.

1)   Black Canary: I’ve worn a Black Canary costume for Halloween and Dragon*Con. If you’re somehow not familiar with Black Canary, her costume could certainly be stereotyped as something worn to get attention. I mean, for one thing, she doesn’t wear pants. Add to that a leotard, high-heeled black boots, and fishnets, and, yeah, I’d guess this counts as a “sexy” outfit. Why did I wear it? Simply put, I had two weeks to come up with something to wear for Halloween and I like Black Canary and suddenly realized I already owned 90% of what I’d need to be her. I’m lazy and cheap but I still like to costume Geek, even for Halloween. So I rounded up the stuff I already owned, bought a cheap cropped leather jacket and, voila! Instant costume.

2)   The Absinthe Fairy: This isn’t a comics costume, but I’ve worn it for Discworld and Dragon*Con, and I love it to death. It features a lacy corset, a short floofy skirt, and bright green five inch platform heels. It’s inspired in vague part by the absinthe fairy in Moulin Rouge. Why did I wear it? Because I love that color of bright green, which prompted me to buy the bright green corset (curse my magpie reaction to pretty things!), which inspired me to come up with a costume for it, which had to be of the right period to fit with Discworld (think burlesque, not proper parlors). And I like fairy wings, because who doesn’t like fairy wings? Even the five inch heels were motivated by something other than wanting attention – they match the corset perfectly, and nothing else looked even remotely right.

3)   Deadpool Cheerleader: This is one I’m putting together for an upcoming con. It will feature a very short cheerleading dress, because that is what cheerleaders wear. Not to wear something like that would negate the point of the costume. Why am I wearing it? A large number of people have suggested to me at various times that I costume as Deadpool, but I have zero desire to actually dress as the character. I’ve never wanted to be Deadpool – I just like to write him. However, after the umpteenth time someone suggested this to me, I thought about how I spend a lot of my comics-discussion-time as Deadpool’s unofficial cheerleader, and, well – sometimes I have a pretty simple sense of humor. So. Yeah.

4)   Arkham City Harley Quinn: I’ve seen a lot of women complain that this version of Harley was designed solely to pander to the fanboys. She’s wearing leather pants, you can see her bra, she wears a belly-baring corset, etc., etc. I’m currently working on putting this costume together for a con. Why am I wearing it? Because Arkham City Harley Quinn looks like a badass punk who just doesn’t give a damn, yo. She looks pissed at the world and ready to do something about it. And if I could dress however I wanted to with no consequences (like totally getting fired), not gonna lie, sometimes I’d want to get up in the morning, put on studded wrist-cuffs and leather pants, and go out into the world angry and ready to kick some ass. Wouldn’t you?

Like I said, I don’t know what every costuming woman’s motivations might be. But take a look at the above, and I think you get my point. Behind every woman in costume, there could be any number of motivations for what she’s wearing, and they’re probably much more interesting than “looking hot.” So let’s discard the assumption that women in costume are just there to be ogled or looking for male attention and move on to the part where we’re all well-rounded personalities with many facets who like to have geek fun together, shall we? I think that’s an excellent plan.

And until next time, Servo Lectio!

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold Goes Beyond!

 

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: Mark Hamill, The Clown Prince of Voice Actors

Imagine the Joker has you tied up. You’re in a dimly lit warehouse right off the river. The air is thick, stale, and musky. The tide raps against the nearby docks punishingly. The rope that binds your hands behind your back is chokingly tight. Every twitch in your wrist scrapes twine against raw flesh. Footsteps on concrete floors echo louder and louder as they draw near.

That laugh. It starts out low and menacing. It crescendos a bit. A few “hee-hees” and “ho-hos” tossed in jovially. It crescendos. Cackling, lung emptying chortles screech on your ears. You wince and tense up. Your wrists chafe as skin breaks. You can feel blood reaching the surface of the rope.

“So fanboy, it wasn’t hard to lure you here. The promise of a preview copy of Catwoman 2 was all it took. Well. that and the promise of more side boob. And now? I bet you’re hoping… praying… that the Bat shows up and saves you. Well, pookie? The joke’s on you… he’s too busy reading Voodoo to show up here! HAAAAA HAAA HAA HAA HAAA!”

Question: The voice in your mind just there? The voice of the Joker? Well, if you’re anything like me… the man reading back my poorly written dialogue in your head was Mark Hamill.

Since 1992, Hamill has portrayed perhaps one of the single hardest roles for any actor, be it voice or otherwise, to play. The nemesis of the Dark Knight has been written many ways; from straight-up sadistic murderer to psychotic sycophant. Bruce Timm and Paul Dini created perhaps the single greatest interpretation of the seminal superhero and tasked Andrea Romano with the worst possible task. The interpretations of role had been truly original to say the least. Both Cesar Romaro and Jack Nicholson had portrayed the Clown Prince of Crime and took liberty to imbue the character with their own charm. Romero painted over his mustache and played the campy cackler with scene chewing glee. Jack Nicholson exuded his … Jack Nichosoness. But here, with Batman: The Animated Series, we were getting a truer-to-comic presentation. The Joker in this case could not be so closely tied to the actor portraying him. And the less we say about Larry Storch’s voice acting during the Superfriends/Scooby Doo era the better.

Enter Luke Skywalker.

Mark Hamill had done a handful of voice acting roles prior his turn as the Joker (so says IMDB), but none with as much clout. Certainly any kids as crazy-obsessed as me hit the pause button while watching their tapes of recorded episodes to see the voice cast… and would be baffled to see their beloved Jedi master lending his baritone to The Joker.

Astonishment aside though, Hamill sunk into the role such that I strongly believe no one else will ever top it. His nuanced delivery, that carries everything from the silly to the psychotic, is pitch-perfect. Over the course of the series, the animated Joker was pulled in several directions. One episode he’s dressed as a sea captain, driving a barge of joker-gassed garbage down the Gotham River; the next, he’s holding Commissioner Gordon, Harvey Bullock and Renee Montoya hostage on live TV. And whether he was back handing Harley Quinn, or flying away on a rocket powered Christmas tree, Hamill captured the character like no other.

In watching a little featurette about the characterization, Hamill put it best. The iconic laughter of The Joker had to be right. It’s a tool in and of itself. With every laugh he delivered behind closed doors, Hamill captured the essence. For all his nuance and outright amazing portrayal of the character in The Dark Knight, even Heath Ledger wasn’t able to really use it. Credit to Hamill’s fearless acting. As you’d learn in the clip, he performed it standing up. You can feel the manic energy in every line he spoke. And when the animated series ended, Hamill (and fan favorite Bat-voice Kevin Conroy) brought the role out one last time for the now-causing-mass-sleep-deprivation video game Batman: Arkham City videogame. Sadly, Hamill told the world it’d be his last foray into the fracas… and thus his reign as the ringmaster of insanity came to a close.

Other people have taken on the role, to less effect. The fantastic John DiMagio (of Futurama fame and much, much more), Kevin Michael Richardson, and even now Brent “Data” Spiner have all tried to take the mantle. But none capture that balance of the character. Some of it may come from the writing itself… but as we all know, the best actors can make lemonade from just a packet of Sweet-N-Low and a wedge of lemon. Mark Hamill’s been blessed with fantastic writers, but took the role to such heights that now I fear no one will ever replace him.

And just then, the window above shatters. Shards of glass rain down on the floor around you, reflecting the pale moonlight and streetlamp glow as they ping-ping-ping into pieces. A leathery flap darkens the area where you sit. You can’t see anything, but you hear a desperate plea.

“Wait, Batsy, no! We were just about to read O.M.A.C. #1 together! HAAA HAAA HAAA HEEE HEE HOO HOO HEEEE!”

SUNDAY: JOHN OSTRANDER