Tagged: Michael Uslan

Mike Gold: Polishing Icons

lone-rangergreen-hornet-1There was a time when it was generally perceived that iconic heroic fantasy characters such as The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, The Shadow and Buck Rogers were so popular for so long that they would be around forever. I think of that whenever somebody alleges Superman and Spider-Man will be around forever. Times change, as do our cultural predilections and venues.

Nonetheless, those heroes have become part of our cultural fabric. Most Americans (at least) who have neither read, seen, nor heard the adventures of these characters have heard their names and have some vague idea of their modus operandi. Just as DC Entertainment has kept Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman “alive” through their comic books while merchandisers and movie producers such as Michael Uslan could enhance their visibility through their more profitable endeavors.

Right now all of the retired heroic fantasy characters I mentioned above are being kept alive by our friends at Dynamite Entertainment, along with such other icons as John Carter, Vampirella, Flash Gordon, and Zorro. I can’t say I’ve read all of these comics as, sadly, I must take time out for eating, sleeping, and the time-consuming effort of trying to catch up with my TiVo. But I have a thing for iconic characters so I’ve read a whole lot of them, most recently the just-completed five-part Lone Ranger / Green Hornet crossover.

This series takes the opportunity to flesh in one of the most interesting concepts in American heroic fantasy. The Lone Ranger was created in 1933 at Detroit radio station WXYZ (Detroit) radio station by station owner George W. Trendle and/or staff writer Fran Striker, accounts differ. A half-dozen Texas Rangers were ambushed by the Butch Cavendish gang, who slaughtered five of the group and were under the impression they killed all six. The Ranger-in-charge, Captain Daniel Reid, was killed but his brother John (a retconned first name) survived and he took upon himself the name and identity of The Lone Ranger.

lone-rangergreen-hornet-2The radio show was so successful that Trendle launched a contemporary themed character named The Green Hornet. It was a modern-time version of The Lone Ranger in all respects: John’s horse Silver was replaced by a car called the Black Beauty, sidekick Tonto was replaced by sidekick Kato, and masked man John Reid was replaced by masked man Britt Reid.

You might have noticed a similarity there. Britt Reid was the grandson of Captain Dan Reid, which means he was John Reid’s grandnephew. Explained in a trio of radio programs after World War II, this was a truly rare and exciting continuity event for its time.

If you do the math and you keep the Green Hornet in his original milieu, it is possible that a rather healthy John Reid could have met his grandnephew and, within a stretch of reason, could have teamed up with his younger relative.

Or so thought comics writer Michael Uslan, who I already noted is a movie producer. He happens to a producer of all the Batman films made over the several decades. But Michael started out (so to speak) as a comic book writer, and has repeatedly proven himself to be one of the best. Our loss has been the movie industry’s gain, and somebody at Marvel Studios owes him one hell of a nice meal.

Michael remains a geek culture expert and a historian, so taking on the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet allows him the opportunity to dive deep into the waters of comics continuity as well as American history. As he has in past projects, Michael explains the historical links in the back of each issue. I’ve been trying to catch him in a mistake for a long, long time. It’s futile, but I can’t help it. I share his love of American cultural history, and I admire his work.

It’s fun to read this ultimate “What If” story. Artist Giovanni Timpano is certainly worthy of the effort; drawing them horses in the big city landscape ain’t easy. The five-part Lone Ranger / Green Hornet crossover is a good solid comic book story, even for those who could care less about the iconic status of its stars.

But if you do care, it’s even better.

Dennis O’Neil: The Boys Who Film Batman

Boy Who Loved BatmanMessrs. Pisani and Uslan, step into the spotlight, center stage and take a bow!

But before we deliver the plaudits, we should perhaps tell you who they are. Of course most of you already know, but there are always a few… well, I don’t want to call them “retards” because that is not politically correct and a crummy thing to say besides, so let’s just identify them as folk who choose not to mingle either physically or intellectually (by acquiring new information) and thus may not be acquainted with the existence of the gentlemen named above.

Mike Uslan is the possessor of the world’s only doctorate in comics, He is a professor at his alma mater, Indiana University, the recipient of a Daytime Emmy, a writer who once worked at DC Comics and he has a producer credit on every Batman movie released since 1989. (For more information, see Mike’s autobiography, The Boy Who Loved Batman, available from Amazon and other book stores.) Trust me – I could go on.

I don’t know exactly how to identify Ken Pisani. I met him a decade or so ago when Marifran, a camera guy, and sound guy and I joined him on a cavernous sound stage in lower Manhattan. The occasion was Ken’s interviewing me for a History Channel documentary on comics. The interview was extraordinarily good and Ken and his lovely wife Amanda have been friends ever since. I’d like to see Ken’s resume because I’m pretty sure he’s done a lot I’m not aware of – he does keep busy being a TV producer, a comic book writer/creator, a screenwriter, a novelist, an art director, a cartoonist…once upon a time, he even worked for Phil Seuling, the man who virtually invented the comic book direct sales market. Amanda knows the full catalog of Ken’s accomplishments. I, alas, do not.

Anyway, that’s Mike and Ken, and I hope they’re taking that bow.

The reason I mention them now is that Ken recently sent me some DVDs from a TV series that ran on Turner’s movie channel. The subject under discussion was the relationship of comic book to early movie serials. The format was the master of ceremonies talking with the comics expert who was – aw, you guessed it – our own Mike Uslan. After a few minutes informative conversation the MC screened two chapters of the serial we’d just heard Mike commenting on. The shows were educational and entertaining – more feathers for the Uslan cap – and they may have taught us comics geeks stuff that we didn’t know. This kind of historical background may not help us do stories, us creator types – I really haven’t decided about that – but it’s kind of nifty to know it.

By the way, in case you’re really out of touch… movie serials were short films shown with main features telling a story over 12 to 15 chapters, each chapter ending with the hero or other good guy in some kind in some kind of horrible quandary. The idea was, you’d return the following week to see how the hero escapes the quandary. Theoretically, you could return to see the hero squashed like a bug, but I don’t think that ever happened. At least, Mike didn’t mention it.

(Editor’s Addendum: Mr. Uslan has been back at writing comics every once in a while, and once again has given us some of the best stuff on the racks. His six-part Lone Ranger / Green Hornet series will be released by Dynamite Comics in July.)

Dennis O’Neil: Beginnings, Myths, & The Flash

I guess that now we know because – correct me if I’m wrong – last Tuesday we were all hunkered down in front of our television sets watching the latest addition to broadcast video’s superhero pantheon acquire his powers. ‘T’was lightning mixed with some other stuff that made the Flash the Flash.

Can we all just relax a bit?

We seem to have a need to know from whence we came, we noble mortals. Most of the word’s religions/mythologies have an “in the beginning” chapter and, funny thing, it doesn’t seem to matter much what the particulars of those creation myths are. A bird brings up a speck of mud from deep in a primordial ocean and that morphs into our planet; the earth emerging from the cracking of a cosmic egg; the dismemberment of a primordial being whose body parts become flora and fauna…and on and on and on. These tales and many, many more have all, at one time or another, sufficed to answer the question of our Beginnings. We seem to want to know our heroes’ origins, too, and so “origin stories” have been staples of comic books (which are what we’re concerned with here) from the first pages of the first appearance of the first mega-popular superhero and of course we could mean none other than Superman. That origin, as movie producer Michael Uslan pointed out decades ago, is quite similar to a story found in the Bible, and you can take that anywhere you want it to go.

Where were we? Ah, I remember: flashing.

The creators of the program under discussion chose to use science to explain how Barry Allen can move so darn fast. Nothing new: there have been four comic book iterations of The Scarlet Speedster and all owe their special traits to science… or maybe we should make that “science.” Briefly: Jay Garrick inhaled hard water vapors to acquire his power; Bart Allen got his after a sojourn in a time machine; Barry Allen and Wally West got their superspeed after being near a lightning bolt that struck some lab chemicals in two separate incidents. (And hey, you carpers – the word “coincidence” exists for a reason.) The teevee folk chose a variation of the Allen-West scenario.

There are, of course, other comics heroes who owe their uniqueness to “science” – we’re not forgetting The Hulk’s exposure to gamma rays, The Fantastic Four’s being zapped with cosmic rays, Spider Man’s encounter with a radio active spider and if you’ve a mind to, you can add your own favorites to the list, but I want to get back to the Flash.

If comics had existed before, oh, say, the Renaissance, our heroes powers would probably been explained by magic because, although science – without the quotation marks – existed back then, I doubt that the varlet on the street thought of it when he considered the miraculous. Magic, or contact with the Almighty, were what caused miracles to happen. Label something magic and… case closed. “Science” served the same purpose for comics (and pulp) writers. As suggested above, we mostly don’t care about the particulars of our origin stories, we just want them to exist.

Then: abracadabra. Now: quantum physics.

As for that label we use to explain the marvelous…we have to be careful if we plan to call it bogus. The nifty – and frustrating – thing about scientists is that they’re never absolutely sure of anything. They always allow for the possibility that they’re mistaken, that something will happen tomorrow that will completely invalidate what they “know.” Radioactive spider? Wellll…


Mike Gold: The Reason Why We’re Here

Forgive me if I ramble as I babble. I just got back from a 2000+ mile drive, linking up with a whole bunch of good people including ComicMix’s own Marc Allan Fishman – and family, Kitchen Sink’s own Denis Kitchen (the University of Wisconsin honored Denis with a well-deserved exhibition of his work), the real First Comics’ own Rick Obadiah, Prime’s own Len Strazewski, Hardy Boys’ own Rick Oliver, and Max Allan Collins’s own George Hagenauer. And then, the next day…

You get the idea. I love going back to the midwest, even when the streets of Chicago are tied up with the big David Bowie museum exhibit. Comics with less plot but better music. Now it’s just a few hours before your earliest opportunity to read this sucker, but Monday Mindy beat be to the brass “I got nuthin’” ring. (Monday Mindy, Monday Mindy… damn, after running her column a couple years, the alliteration just dawned on me).

Because I drove – no, I’m not afraid of flying, I’m afraid of how I might react after being treated like cattle in its own crap from the moment I leave for the airport to the moment I drive off the rental lot) – I spent a couple nights in remote hotels somewhere off of Interstate 80. ComicMix’s own Adriane Nash won’t let me drive straight-through. I’d comment, but she’s just doing her job and she’s very… effective at it. Elderly widower that I am, I spent those two nights cuddled up with my iPad, reading comic books.

If you’re a comics fan who travels a lot, you’ll quickly develop an attraction to electronic comics. I loaded the tablet with over one hundred of them, along with a ton of music, of course. And I read about a dozen or so.

I want to review the excellent Justice Inc., but I’ll wait until the series is over before I give you reasons to get the trade paperback. I read a few of my top shelf favorites like Sex, Aw Yeah! Comics and Savage Dragon (those are three different titles, folks), as well as the wonderful DC Digital First Sensation Comics. And I spent some more time trying to figure out the Future’s End stuff, unsuccessfully although I really enjoyed the Booster Gold issue.

Best of the lot? The first part of Michael Uslan’s current Betty and Veronica storyline wherein the other two sides of the famed Archie triangle ditch Riverdale for an amazing opportunity in Europe. Why would they leave home for a European adventure? Hell, wouldn’t you?

Over all, it was a great way to spend a few hours in an otherwise empty hotel room. Reading a bunch of comic books, most very good, some great, some not so much.

At the end of the proverbial day, that’s what it’s all about. Not the type of controversies real, exaggerated and make-up, that we see online every second of the day, but sitting down and enjoying the stuff. My affection towards the community of comics creators present and past grows each time I can kick back and remember why ComicMix is here.

Yep. That’s really what it’s all about.


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…


How Jon Peters Could Earn $15 Million on ‘Man of Steel’ for Doing Nothing


Cover: Douglas Klauba

Moonstone Books has released Green Hornet: Still At Large in ebook format at Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes & Noble (Nook).

Edited by Joe Gentile, Win Scott Eckert, and Matthew Baugh, this third anthology featuring the 1960s Green Hornet, based on the television program starring Van Williams and Bruce Lee, follows The Green Hornet Chronicles and The Green Hornet Casefiles.

Cover: Ruben Procopio

“Hero” by S.J. Rozan
“The Black Torpedo” by Will Murray
“The World Will End in Fire” by Richard Dean Starr
“The Man Inside” by Matthew Baugh
“Death from Beyond” by Ron Fortier
“Play the Game” by Thom Brannan
“The Gauntlet” by Bobby Nash
“Chaos and the Year of the Dog” by Bobbie Metevier
“Axford’s Sting” by Dan Wickline
“Revenge of the Yellowjacket” by Howard Hopkins
“The Man in the Picture” by Patricia Weakley
“Masks” by C.J. Henderson
“Bad Man’s Blunder” by John Allen Small
“Losers, Weepers” by Rich Harvey
“Stormfront” by Greg Gick
“The Night I Met The Hornet” by Mel Odom
“Progress” by Win Scott Eckert

Ordering information:
Amazon (ebook)
B&N (ebook)
Moonstone direct (trade paperback)
Moonstone direct (limited hardcover)
Amazon (trade paperback)
Amazon (limited hardcover)
B&N (trade paperback)
B&N (limited hardcover)

Preview: “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1”

The first issue of Batman: The Dark Knight Ret...Don’t give us any more of “The Dark Knight Rises”… if you’ve been reading comics for a while, you know what the original stuff was, from Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, and Lynn Varley. And now, DC Animation (via MTV) is giving us our first glimpse at what looks to be a very faithful adaptation of “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, pt. 1″.

Get More: MTV Shows

You know the story…

…it’s been a decade since Bruce Wayne hung up his cape, following most of the other superheroes who had been forced into retirement. Facing the downside of middle age, a restless Bruce Wayne pacifies his frustration with race cars and liquor – but the bat still beckons as he watches his city fall prey to gangs of barbaric criminals known as The Mutants.

The return of Harvey Dent as Two-Face finally prompts Wayne to once again don the Dark Knight’s cowl, and his dramatic capture of the villain returns him to crime-fighting – simultaneously making him the target of law enforcement and the new hope for a desolate Gotham City. Particularly inspired is a teenage girl named Carrie, who adopts the persona of Robin and ultimately saves Batman from a brutal attack by the Mutant leader. Armed with a new sidekick, and re-energized with a definitive purpose, the Dark Knight returns to protect Gotham from foes new…and old.

The film stars Peter Weller as Batman, is David Selby as Commissioner Gordon, Ariel Winter as Robin, Wade Williams as Two-Face, and Michael McKean as Dr. Bartholomew Wolper. The film is directed by Jay Oliva, written by Bob Goodman and executive produced by Sam Register and the legendary Bruce Timm.

“Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1” hits Blu-ray Combo Pack & DVD and download on September 25, 2012 from Warner Home Video. “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2” is due in early 2013.

via MTV Geek – Exclusive Premiere: ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1′ Trailer.

DENNIS O’NEIL: Enough with the Superhero Movies?

Not long ago, I was chatting with a movie guy (yes, that was me, riding shotgun in the gold Ferrari, tooling down Rodeo Drive, heading for Brad and Angie’s…) and he said that the summer of ’11 could be make-it-or-break-it time for superhero flicks.

As you know by now, there have been four – count ‘em four – such entertainments released in the past several months, raising the question: Have we had enough?

Hard to say. Three of the four films were solid profit-makers and the last will probably limp into the black eventually, if it hasn’t already. So the chair-fillers aren’t reacting against super-doers, but if you squint, you might be able to detect signs that the honeymoon is over. A hundred and ten minutes of a dude in a funny suit doing grandiose stunts and bashing other dudes, also in funny suits, is no longer box-office surety. The novelty value is gone.

Remember when kung fu flicks first hit the U.S.? (Okay, most of you don’t because that happened before you were born, but indulge me.) For some of us, including me and my post-toddler son, any martial arts movie was the right martial arts movie and we spent a lot of afternoons in sticky-floored theaters watching them. The new approach to action-melodrama, the exotic casts, and – oh yeah! – the nifty fight-acrobatics (and whatever amusement could be gotten from bad dubbing) were enough to engross us, regardless of these Asian imports’ other merits or demerits. Then along came Bruce Lee and Enter the Dragon and then Jackie Chan and…

And, eventually, kung fu became just another genre, like westerns and war and romance and family comedies and raunchy comedies… Another genre. I still watch and enjoy martial arts films, particularly those with acrobatics, particularly acrobatics as practiced by performers from Thailand, and you can enjoy them, too, because your local Blockbuster has a goodly selection for rent and you don’t have to troll too far on your cable TV hookup to find one or two or…

Another genre, yes, but one that comes in a lot of sizes and shapes and languages and one you might patronize because of the virtues of a particular movie, not because of that movie’s label.

Superhero movies are, I shyly contend, undergoing a similar evolution. Already, perhaps, some of you don’t go to see a Marvel flick, you go to see Robert Downey, Jr., doing his Iron Man, and it’s well worth the trip. The acting is improving, the themes becoming more complex and the special effects…well, sometimes you aren’t aware of them as effects; they exist to serve the narrative, not to make us ohhh and ahhh as though we’re watching a spectacular fireworks display. It’s about story, not spectacle.

Spectacle is fine, but narrative offers other rewards, and most movies are narratives. The best special effect I’ve seen all summer happened early in Captain America, when somehow the cinematic wizards grafted Chris Evans’s head onto someone else’s body – seamlessly, perfectly realizing a plot element. No explosions, no shattered planets, just splendid storytelling.

Recommended Reading: The Boy Who Loved Batman: A Memoir by Michael Uslan.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

A Day In The Life Of A ComicMix Guy

People occasionally ask me: so how do you fill your days working for ComicMix? Here’s what I did yesterday…

After getting up around 10 AM (because I’d been working overnight on various programming changes for the web site) I went into New York City to have lunch with authors [[[Dave Smeds]]] (X-Men: Law Of The Jungle), [[[Aaron Rosenberg]]] (World Of Warcraft, Eureka), [[[David Alan Mack]]] (Farscape: Scorpius for Boom!, Star Trek: Vanguard) and ComicMix contributors Alexandra Honigsberg and Kim Kindya, among others.

Headed off to a post-lunch survey of comic book stores, where I discussed with the owners about DC’s digital plans, and the meeting that DC will be having on Friday between their executives and various comic book store owners. We expect there to be fireworks a bit early this summer.

At one of the comics stores, also caught up with [[[Michael Uslan]]] (executive producer of the Batman films and author of [[[Archie Marries…]]]) who revealed that he’s in town to speak at the United Nations on Friday with Jerry Robinson (Batman artist and creator of Robin and the Joker) to address political cartoonists from all over the world.

Then after a brief meeting with a possible investor, I hopped a subway to Citifield, where I sat in Joe Quesada-provided seats with Peter David and his family to watch the Mets battle the Oakland A’s. Joe was a gracious host, and Peter and I spent a lot of time discussing an upcoming project of his we’ll tell you more about later this week.

It was a looooong game– started an hour late due to rain, and went to 13 innings. (The Mets won on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch with two outs.) Between innings, I also played chess with Marvel Senior VP of Publishing, Tom Brevoort. I think it’s mate in seven moves, but I’m not sure for which of us yet.

But after the Mets victory, as I headed towards the number 7 subway station, I saw one more comics tie-in– our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man was there, alternately serenading us with Take Me Out To The Ball Game and his own theme song.

Then back here, setting up a few more things for the site before I had to drive a friend to a 5 AM flight. And after I get back from the airport, the morning press releases will be coming in.

So how was your day?