Tagged: Scooby Doo

Mike Gold: How To Read American English Comics

Mike Gold: How To Read American English Comics

When I stop to think about it – and, obviously, I just did – it’s a miracle I’ve learned how to write and speak American English… at least to the extent that I have.

Like a great many comic book fans, I was a precocious reader. This was long before The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy was revealed to be in Mensa – an organization that could double as ground zero for Geek Culture. I learned how to read because my sister is almost seven years older than me and she got stuck with the chore of babysitting. Marcia would read me her comic books and I quickly discovered the comics page in the old (and deeply missed) Chicago Daily News. Between the newspaper and my sister’s comic books, I became an incessant reader.

The problem was, that newspaper carried such brilliant strips as Pogo, Li’l Abner, and Abbie an’ Slats. Many of the characters in those strips didn’t speak American English or British English or any other recognizable form of our mother tongue. Pogo and Albert and friends spoke Okefenokee Swamp English, a dialect so thick it would baffle Tennessee Williams. Abner, Daisy Mae, “Bathless” Groggins, and Slats Scrapple spoke a particularly cloistered version of hillbilly. Both Li’l Abner and Abbie an’ Slats were created and written by Al Capp, although Capp gave the A&S writing chores over to his brother Eliot Chaplin after World War II.

As you can see from the art scattered around these words, they simply did not have United Nations translators for these features.

The Daily News carried other strips, of course, but those three were among the truly brilliant. I also enjoyed Louie – a pantomime strip that, by definition, was bereft of dialogue.

I suspect my love of Golden Books was the counter-influence that put me on the straight-and-narrow. I graduated to biographies, which I love, and then to science-fiction and heroic fantasy and history. All of this happened because my sister read me her copies of Superman, Katy Keene and Mutt and Jeff.

So it is no surprise that I am a huge supporter of early reading programs. I’ve done a great deal of youth social service work in my life, and I’ve taken every opportunity to help such programs as Head Start, Reading is Fundamental, and Literacy Volunteers.

These programs work.

I remember when, back before Coggia’s Comet was discovered, the legendary Maggie Thompson wrote about how she and her husband Don used comic books as reading tools in raising their family. Damn, that worked out fine. It was difficult for me to convince some that comics would be useful in this endeavor back in my earliest days, but with great movie box office comes great acceptance. Drop a copy of Ultimate Spider-Man Magazine or Scooby-Doo Magazine in a kid’s lap and help the child read it. Discuss the stories afterwards. Watch their sense of wonder grow right before your very eyes.

Not only will you be forging the next generation of readers, but you will be keeping the sundry literary markets alive. That includes comic books, which easily could be replaced by superhero movies and television if we don’t get circulations boosted up.

This, in turn, will inspire the next generation of comics creators. It will be wonderful to see where the post-Millennials can take us.

 

Ed Catto: Trick or Treat For Comics

img_4751

img_6145For the umpteenth year in a row, we’ll be giving out comics instead of candy for Halloween today. We’re typically met with a mixture of surprise and delight… by both kids and their parents. Returning families call us “the comic book house” and tell us that they remember this tradition from last year.

The occasional parent confides in me that “this is the kids’ favorite house.” They probably say that at all the houses, but it’s still nice to hear.

When I was kid, the standard Halloween traditions were often modified. “Trick Or Treat for UNICEF” was designed for kids to collect small donations from neighbors as they’d go from house-to-house with a specially designed orange UNICEF container. I fondly recall TV ads that basically taught young trick-or-treaters to scream “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” when they knocked on doors. The program still continues today.

img_6138Another modified tradition, which must have been either a local one or an Italian one, was that one the night before Halloween we’d put on our costumes and my parents would drive us around town to several relatives’ homes. We had a big Italian family in town and getting to their houses to hold them up for the yearly candy ransom clearly mandated a car and driver. My brother and I would gleefully don our costumes for this pseudo “dress rehearsal” and of course, enjoy collecting the extra candy in that insatiable way that all trick-or-treaters do.

So it’s natural that by giving away comics instead of candy, we’d put our own twist on the annual candy tradition. But I’ve heard about many other comics fans giving away comics for Halloween.

For the past few years, we’ve been setting up two tables: one filled with “All Ages” comics that are appropriate for the youngest kids and another with comics more suited for older kids. We label each table. In the early hours we only need the younger kids table, and in the later hours we just leave the older kids table out.

img_6140The kids never seem to pick out the comics you’d expect them to choose. It’s fascinating to see the selection process when kids are presented with a table full of choices. Sometimes they choose by character or just by an interesting cover.

Some kids know just what they want and quickly sift through the choices. Too many kids are unfamiliar with comics are amazed to see media properties in comics form. “Scooby Doo? Cool!”

In this age where a hero like Iron Man who used to be a B-lister has hundreds of kids dressing like him, the impact of comic heroes at Halloween is palpable. Every kid now knows Iron Man and Thor, but few of them have read, or even seen, an Iron Man or Thor comic.

I love the kids that struggle to make a choice between two comics. If we have enough comics, we typically let them get both.

img_4750But traditions change. We’re empty nesters and we’ve just moved after 26 years to a town called Auburn, nestled in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. It’s a great town with a rich nerd history.

Auburn was blessed with one of the pioneering comic shops back in the 70s and several after. There was also a back issue dealer who was selling in Auburn before the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide was established. He’d use the Passiac Book Guide to establish pricing. On the other hand, Auburn NY was the site of one of those comic book burnings in the 50s.

It will be fascinating to see how our new neighbors react to comics on Halloween. I’ll let you know next year how it all went.

img_4760One More Halloween Thought

Orson Welles’ Mercury Radio Theater was an old time radio program that adapted classic books as radio dramas. But on Halloween in 1938, they tried something a little different with their H.G. Wells’ War of The Worlds adaptation. Orson Welles cast himself as a reporter broadcasting live from the horrific scene of the Martian invasion. Some listeners who tuned in midway through the broadcast thought it was real.

Last year, a podcast on the Panoply Network tried the same trick with a drama called The Message. It’s a spooky thriller, with clever twists and turns. And they played it straight – just like Orson Welles did all those years ago. If you need one more Halloween fright this year, give it a try!

Mike Gold: Dark Scooby & Freedom Fightin’ Fred

flintstones_1-Pugh-231x350Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

Just when I decided that maybe DC’s “Rebirth” might possibly be worthy – yes, I know, I had the same hopes for Batman v Superman – the other shoe dropped. Back in the 1990s I perceived DC as a centipede, with (obviously) 100 shoes to drop. Now, I’m thinking millipede.

In case you haven’t heard, DC decided to “reimagine” (lord how I hate that word) the classic Hanna-Barbera characters. Sort of like what Archie Comics just did with Archie but, in this case, totally needless.

I have little if any strong attachment to the H-B characters. Even as a kid I knew cheap, shitty animation and sub-standard writing. I loved Rocky and Bullwinkle, which employed even cheaper animation, but after mildly enjoying the first season of The Flintstones I decided life was too short – I was 10 years old – and there were so many Looney Tunes to watch and re-watch. I stuck around long enough to realize Betty was hotter than Wilma and how the hell that little wiener Barney landed her was beyond me. But I digress.

Scooby ApoclypseFlash forward to about 1994. I just got my DirecTV wired up and I was ready to rumble. Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies, Comedy Central – my local cable company had none of that stuff at the time. Sitting next to me was my daughter, who was about 19 at the time. We surfed around and landed on Cartoon Network. Adriane went nuts. “Scooby Doo! Scooby Doo!! Don’t change the channel!!!”

Like the other H-B stuff, Scooby-Doo held no attraction for me. In fact, I thought it was an insult to both dogs and to hippies. But Adriane was so enthusiastic and I was so enthralled by the digital broadcast that I stuck with it. It was one of those sort-of feature length crossover movies; I think the one with the Three Stooges. Or Batman and Robin. Same difference.

Fine. There’s nothing that says I have to like it, and those cartoons were more boring than they were rotten. Every generation gets to have its own without the so-called adults pissing on their pleasures and I enjoyed sharing Adriane’s youthful enthusiasm.

(However, Adriane’s all growed-up now and is an editor here at ComicMix. She has the privilege of editing my copy, among others. With great power comes great vengeance. Nonetheless, upon reviewing this column she said “Feel free to point out Adriane was disgusted by the art when it was released in January, worse than she was by Freddie Prinze Jr’s dyejob for the live action movie. Apparently being a grown up means Warner Bros. shits on your childhood in new ways every 15 years or so.”). Mike often wonders where Adriane got that third-person bit.)

But now, just as DC claims to have learned the folly of incessant reboots such as The New 52, comes this.

They’re redoing the H-B characters. Rebooting them. Modernizing them. Making them relevant to a young audience that, quite frankly, does not see the comic book medium as relevant.

Fred and Barney and Scooby and Shaggy aren’t your father’s Fred and Barney and Scooby and Shaggy. Or your grandfathers’. Or… anybody’s. You can see for yourself from the appropriated artwork above.

The idea that Keith Giffen, Marc DeMatteis, Howard Porter and Jim Lee are doing Scooby Apocalypse gives me hope for an entertaining comic book, and on its face it seems like a great idea for a parody. But as the newest incarnation of “the real thing?” It’s like dumping Superman’s red exo-trunks: they’re messing with the American flag.

I assume Jonny Quest will soon be revealed as a weed runner. Hey, Shaggy had to score from someone, and Top Cat really couldn’t be trusted.

Maybe we’ll get lucky and Scrappy-Doo will get hit by a runaway garbage truck.

Joe Corallo: Don’t Call It A Comeback!

DC-Rebirth

I’m sure many of you are aware of the upcoming DC Rebirth. I’ve been following it along since the first bits of news surfaced, and I almost wrote about it last week. Now I feel enough is out there where I can start forming some level of opinion on it. And try as I might, it’s not a particularly positive opinion. However, that’s strictly regarding Rebirth. I do think DC may have a couple of good ideas here. Just not with diversity in mind.

Hear me out on this one.

Rebirth shouldn’t shock anybody. As far back as last August, we heard that DC was going to “Stop Batgirling” and get back to “meat and potatoes.” Many people wrote about this and how problematic it was since “meat and potatoes” came off as “more straight cis white guy stories.” Back in August, that was just an opinion on what might happen. Granted, a well informed opinion, but still an opinion. Based on the titles being offered starting in June, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t now a fact. At least it took almost a year for this all to happen, which gave us time to enjoy comics like Doctor Fate and Midnighter. They will be sorely missed by me and quite a few people I know. Not enough people, apparently, but still quite a few.

In lieu of diversity, DC is doubling down on its core characters. It may come of as a sound conservative move to retreat back, reassess, and plan accordingly to expand after. Looking at the line-up DC has presented certainly shows that they are taking far fewer risks than they did back with the New 52. Outside of arguably Gotham Academy: Next Semester, every single title is a superhero one. At a time of where publishers like Image are encroaching on the big two with its wider variety of genres, this seems like more than just one step back for DC Comics.

Why would DC think this is such a good idea?

The short answer may very well be DC’s Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns. He’s a talented writer that has helped DC a great deal in the past. However, he’s also constantly looking backward when it comes to important aspects of the stories he’s telling. This is the guy that orchestrated the biggest reboot of Green Lantern which involved bringing back straight cis white Hal Jordan as its torchbearer. Similar strategies were used in his runs on comics like The Flash and Teen Titans. His comments that he made regarding Rebirth are troubling. A lot of looking backward and keeping the fan base small, isolated, and nearly impenetrable is what I and many others got out of it.

As a queer reader, canceling the only gay male superhero comic alone hits a bit hard, especially after a fairly short run. Cancelling Catwoman as well seems a bit excessive. In addition to Batwoman staying gone, Poison Ivy not continuing to have a series (I know it was just meant to be a mini-series, but still), that just leaves Harley Quinn and Hellblazer. The only queer characters worth having in their line are only the ones who have been in movies and TV shows I suppose. It’s rough enough that the queer representation lately has been almost exclusively cis and white (at least in headlining a book), but this step back makes it seem like it may be a long time before we can even move past that. It looks like it could be a long time before Alysia Yeoh becomes a kickass vigilante (if she ever does) and don’t even get me started on when we’ll see Rene Montoya as The Question or Kate Godwin as Coagula again.

At this point you may be curious as to what I was getting at before when I said that DC may have some good ideas here. They might. Not with Rebirth, but with Vertigo and their Hanna-Barbera titles. Not too long ago, DC’s New 52 did have quite a few risky books coming out. While doing that, they neglected the Vertigo line. Saying Vertigo as an imprint was anemic at the time would have been a nice way to put it. Part of that was DC bringing back characters like Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Constantine, and Doom Patrol into the main continuity. They also just weren’t pumping out the same number of titles, and books like Fables were coming to an end. Now, Vertigo appears to be thriving. It seems pretty clear to me that DC’s approach now is to keep it’s main line more conservative and less risky and using Vertigo to take chances and experiment again. When framed in this context, it doesn’t sound quite as bad. I haven’t really seen it framed this way yet, but maybe as the new Vertigo titles get further along and Rebirth begins, we’ll see commentators putting this all in a slightly different context.

With the Hanna-Barbera titles, DC can address the problem with the lack of comic offerings they have for kids. That’s a good thing. We need more kids reading comics if we’re going to keep expanding the readership. And the way Jim Lee is apparently looking into making Hanna-Barbera comics a shared universe, it allows the kind of story telling that’s used in most DC comics while having it for a younger audience. Hey, it works for Archie.

If your head is currently exploding because I haven’t taken the time to acknowledge how much I hate the new hipster looking Scooby Doo character designs, it’s because I don’t. If you have a non exploded head on your shoulders you’ll be able to find out why. It’s because the new Scooby Doo isn’t supposed to be for me. It’s supposed to be for kids. Some of which might not even be aware of Scooby Doo. This could be their first look at these characters. Maybe the kids will hate it. I don’t know. What I do know is hating character designs for kids’ comics clearly not made for me is a waste of my own time and energy. I have plenty of other things to get angry about. This is an election year after all.

My qualms with the Hanna-Barbera line of comics lie in diversity. They are white. Very very white. And straight. And cis. That’s the downside of going back to older properties like this. It’s a point I’ve brought up before, and this is just another example of the problems of resurrecting much older properties that didn’t have diversity in mind. I’m not angry that Scooby and the gang look like they’re living in Williamsburg or Bushwick now, but if you don’t mind updating the designs, why do they all still have to be straight cis white people? If it’s not at all important that Shaggy stays clean shaven and is allowed to be drawn with crazy facial hair, then why is it so important that he has to be portrayed as white?

The Vertigo line seems to have more stories involving women than the main DC line. That’s great. We definitely need more of that. However, Vertigo does seem very white. They have some great titles, but between DC’s main line, the Hanna-Barbera offerings, and Vertigo, I can’t help but feel we’ve taken a few steps back in queer and minority representation. Maybe this is temporary, since comics focusing on diversity seemed temporary at DC, but we’ll have to wait and see.

In other news, I’ve caught up on Image Comics’ The Wicked + The Divine. Now that is a great inclusive comic.

Happy 80th Birthday, Harlan Ellison!

harlan_typewriterThere are those of you who doubted he’d make it. Hah! Hah, we say!

Harlan Ellison, writer, raconteur, gadfly, screenwriter, actor, power forward for the Los Angeles Lakers, and a character in The Dark Knight Returns, Freakazoid, Concrete, The Simpsons, and Scooby Doo, celebrates his 80th birthday today. Yes, he’s been striking terror into the hearts of mere mortals for eight decades.

We don’t even know where to start with his list of accomplishments. If you’ve never read anything from him, go read his Dream Corridor comic collections, or <a class="zem_slink" title="Phoenix Without Ashes" href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0449031888/associatizer-20/ target="_blank" rel="amazon">Phoenix Without Ashes</a>, or watch some of his videos from his days on the Sci-Fi Channel here.

He even thanks you for your birthday wishes:

And here’s the cover to his Incredible Hulk #140, drawn by Herb Trimpe, who celebrated his 75th birthday yesterday! Congrats to both of you!

Review: Scooby Doo! WrestleMania Mystery

SCoobymaniaVince McMahon is a certified marketing genius. Always keen to find a new way to reach a new audience, he tied pro wrestling to rock and roll, and in doing so, made it a part of popular culture to a level it hadn’t been since the early days of television.  His knack for cross-promotion has struck gold again, with a crossover between the WWE Superstars and the animated adventures of the Great Dane Detective and the Mystery Inc gang in their newest direct to video movie, Scooby Doo WrestleMania Mystery, out just in time to help promote WrestleMania XXX, coming to your screens this Sunday, April 6.

The voices and likenesses of the current crop of WWE Superstars like John Cena, Triple H, Divas Champion AJ Lee and Santino Marella team up with Scooby and the gang in a fun throwback to the old days of The New Scooby Doo Movies, which featured guest star crossovers galore. The voice cast of Mystery Inc are the team that have been handling the job for the TV shows as well as the Direct to Video features for some time now.  Frank Welker still provides the voice of Stalwart Freddy Jones, and has also capably taken over the voice of the eponymous hound.  Mindy Cohn, late of The Facts of Life is Velma Dinkley, and voice talent extraordinaire Grey Delisle Griffin is Daphne BlakeNorville “Shaggy” Rogers is now voiced by Matthew Lillard, who proved to us in the live-action films that it is actually possible to genetically breed actors to play specific parts.

The story is set in “WWE City” a combination resort complex, production center and training camp for the superstars.  Scooby and the gang win a trip to the resort after getting a perfect score in the new WWE video game, just in time for Wrestlemania, the unveiling of the priceless new WWE championship belt, and the recent attacks by a mysterious monster, the Ghost Bear.  Seems almost like they could be, y’know, connected, huh?  The Bear is allegedly the spectral remains of a wrestling bear in a touring show, undefeated until he fell at the hands of the great-grandfather of luchador and current WWE Superstar Sin Cara. With the help of long time wrestling trainer Cookie (Chares S. Dutton) and his nephew Ruben, the gang investigates the origins of the bear attacks, which takes on an extra level of required hurry-up when Scooby is accused of stealing the championship belt. They must find the culprit (and the bear) before, according to WWE City law, Scooby and Shaggy will be forced to prove their innocence on the field of battle, facing Kane in the opening match at WrestleMania.

The film is loads of fun, with a suitably wacky storyline, mixed with well done action and chase scenes. There’s enough twists and turns to keep the viewer guessing until the mask is whipped off the baddie. The superstars’ charisma carry over to the animated form, and it’s clear everyone had a good time making the movie.  Also included on the disc is a behind the scenes documentary featuring the wrestlers’ voice recording sessions and an episode of underappreciated classic of the Doo continuity A Pup Named Scooby Doo, a show The Wife and I loved so much, we named our child after one of its characters, namely Shaggy’s baby sister.  (Thank goodness we had a girl, or we’d have had to name her “Red” Hoerring.)

Scooby Doo WrestleMania Mystery is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Marc Alan Fishman: All Ages Be Damned!

Fishman Art 130810According to Robot 6 and a few other comic blogs Paul Pope pitched an all ages Kamandi series to DC. Upon hearing it, supposedly, DC responded “You think this is gonna be for kids? Stop, stop. We don’t publish comics for kids. We publish comics for 45-year olds. If you want to do comics for kids, you can do Scooby-Doo. Well, I don’t know how true that is, but it certainly brings a few thoughts to mind.

Let’s say that the statement was in fact true. We don’t actually know the context in which it was said. I’ll assume Pope can tell sarcasm apart from snark. So, if DC actually had the balls to be so rude to such a great talent, they’ll deserve the continued flack they seem to be gunning for on what feels like a daily basis. There’s so many things wrong with what they said… so much so I don’t even know where to begin. How about the beginning.

“We don’t publish comics for kids.” You don’t say. I recall a while back DC had a whole line of comics for kids. I assume though, that it wasn’t profitable, even with the acclaimed Art Baltazar and Franco’s Tiny Titans, and Mike Kunkel’s Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam. Oddly enough though, when I type “DC Comics for Kids” into Google, I seem to be directed to dcnationcomics.kidswb.com! How odd that a company that doesn’t publish comics for kids seems to do just that. Of course my only real options for DC kids comics these days are Scooby-Doo, Looney Toon, Lil’ Gotham, and Adventures of Superman, I might tend to agree that they indeed don’t. Not to knock Superman or Lil’ Bats, but comics for kids amongst the big two always seem to be cordoned off, and rarely beloved. To be even more fair? The only time I’ve personally ever cared to peruse an all-ages book by either Marvel or DC has been Tiny Titans. Then again, I’m not the target audience of less-than-mature comic books.

I’m also not 45, but I get the potential point they are hypothetically making. That point though, is a terrible one. No company in their right mind should be aiming to please 45 year olds. While I plan on being a comic book reader until I’m unable, I freely admit that a comic (and let’s be bland and say traditional super hero comics) should be targeting a younger market. Go back and read something from the silver age. Stan Lee and his ilk wrote simplistic stories with solid doses of emotional depth. It was only when the industry went goth––and started getting mean, and angry – did the product by-and-large seem to start aging with its audience. The point though is this: yes… teens, tweens, and toddlers alike seem to not be embracing the super heroes as much as the Yuhi-Ohs or whatever. What a load of bull-pucks.

This is where I’m perhaps the angriest. There seems to be the insane undercurrent within our niche industry that somehow, someway we need to reach the kids. How the future of our livelihood depends solely on our ability to make ankle-biters know we’re here with funny books. Guess what? We won, years ago, and no one noticed!

Go to Target, Wal-Mart, and the like. Do you see Avengers T-Shirts? Do you see Batman underoos? Do you see an entire aisle of toys that are comic related? Because I do. Go to the electronic sections of the same stores. Do you see the literal wall of DVDs that are comic book related? If you don’t, you’re blind. Facts are facts: Super-Heroes of Marvel and DC are in the zeitgeist. And while comic sales are seemingly no better (as in, kids aren’t rushing in droves to their local comic shops like we all seem to hope…), the fact that the movies, TV shows, and merchandise is out there. For those kids who want more than a movie, show, or toy to play with, there will always be comics. Hell, that’s exactly how I myself came into the industry!

If I were to play devil’s advocate for only a second, I can see between the poor choice of words spoken to Mr. Pope. He pitched a character that by and large is unknown. And while his name brings with it an audience, a Paul Pope Kamandi book doesn’t necessarily come close to the potential profits of a Paul Paul Batman book. At the end of the day, as much as we may love those tertiary characters deep within the catalogues of DC and Marvel… those two companies don’t stay in the black because of them. Marvel makes its money on Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Avengers. DC does with Batman, Superman, and to a lesser extent Wonder Woman / Green Lantern / Flash. Show me the bottom-line earnings of a Kamandi or a Ka-Zar book, and I’ll show you why DC offered Paul Scooby-Doo.

That being said, I’d personally love to see his pitch and take on the character. He’s incredibly talented. And just as I would have wanted to see the Static Shock John Rozum originally pitched for the New52. To me what this pull quote really makes me think is this: There needs to be a way for Marvel and DC to allow amazing creators to drive their own ship, and still make money. Reduce their pre-production / up front pay in lieu of per-piece pay. Release the book digitally only, and then collect it into a printed trade if the sales permit it. Open up the catalogue and let creativity be the driving force of what you put out. Certainly we know that the pulp and paper market will only live so much longer. And beyond that? When a creator wants to deliver an all-ages title? Embrace it! A comic that can be read and enjoyed by more than one demographic only increases the possibilities of readership.

You think you can step on creators as much as you want? Why don’t you just go back to publishing Scooby-Doo.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

 

Michael Davis: The Avengers … Or The Anatomy Of The Bitch Slap.

Mickey Mouse just bitch slapped Scooby Doo. Donald Duck just put his foot up Shaggy’s butt. Goofy just cold cocked Velma.

Disney just kicked Warner Bros’ ass.

Marvel just told DC “fuck the New 52!”

This all happened the moment The Avengers movie opened.

The Avengers is the best superhero movie ever made.

E.V.E.R!

Yes, this is just my opinion but consider this: I’ve had my problems with DC Comics but I’m a huge fan of the DC universe. I’ve always considered Superman The Movie the best superhero movie ever. I thought that because Superman works on so many different levels and it still holds up decades later. Superman The Movie is over 30 years old and it still works. It was made without the crazy shit that exists now in special effects and it still works.

In the movie, that mofo caught a helicopter in 1979 without CGI, without Industrial, Light and Magic, and it still works.

You get that? That mofo (Superman to those unhip out there) caught a helicopter without the 2012 computer magic that exists today and I was all in!

What does that mean really? It means a good superhero movie is not just about guys or girls in tights who fly and have lots of fights throughout the film.

Superman The Movie remade the character but kept the original story intact. The story was the story of Superman that everyone knew before they went into the theater to see it, yet it was also new. That’s hard to do.

I’ll say that again. That’s hard to do.

Don’t think so? Did you see The Punisher movie when the Punisher was not even in his costume? Did you see the Captain America movie when Cap walked from the North Pole? Those were horrible movies to be sure but Hollywood gets it right sometimes and still screws some of the comic book mythos for no reason. That’s no reason except some guy in the room with juice gives a “note” that he thinks is a good idea and the other monkeys in the room agree.

For instance, take what I consider a great superhero movie, Batman. That’s the 1989 version – but yes I still love the 1966 version! For some reason known only to whothefuckever came up with it they made the Joker the killer of Bruce Wayne’s parents.

I bet if the same guy worked on Superman he would have said, I have an idea! Let’s make Superman from Compton instead of Krypton!”

Hollywood seems to think they know better than the people and the industry that created the property and that’s why doing a superhero film that respects the source material is so hard.

Just ask Alan Moore.

I’m lucky enough (or badass enough if you happen to be a pretty girl impressed by this type of bullshit) to work in Hollywood. If some studio wanted to make a movie out of one of my creations I would most likely let them do what they want even if they disagreed with my vision of my creation.

Why?

Because what I do is not art, it’s entertainment.

So as a writer who has three books coming out between late 2012 and mid-2013 (if the Earth is still here) I can say without hesitation: Hollywood, take my work and make it a movie. If you want my input, great! If not, then write me a big check and spell my name right in the credits.

As a writer I have to be smart about the way the business of entertainment works. I have to play the game. That said, I will not roll over like a little bitch if you want do something so stupid like making Static Shock a white kid (that was a suggestion by a studio executive) or you tell me some dumb 1950s shit like black superheroes don’t sell. Yeah, that happened as well.

So I will bend but I won’t break when confronted with real world scenarios when it comes to being a writer.

But as a fan? As a fan I won’t stand for any shit that does not fit my view of what a great superhero movie is and first and foremost is respect the source material!

The Avengers movie not only sticks to the comics, it adds to the brand.

Not easy to do.

Marvel Studios and Disney produced a superhero movie that rabid geek fan boys can take a girl and even if that girl hates all things geek she will love this movie.

Result? Possible tapping of some ass.

I’m watching The Avengers in 3-D. Live action IMAX 3-D. The Avengers!!! I’m watching the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, The Black Widow and Hawkeye and they are the characters I know and love. This is what I want as a fan-this is what all comic book fans wants from their superhero movies.

That’s why, for my money, this is the best superhero movie ever done.

Warner Bros. can’t even get the goddamn Justice League movie made.

That’s why Tony Stark just made Bruce Wayne his bitch.

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Emily S. Whitten Gets The Scent!

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold Gets Nancy, Good!

 

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: Batman Versus Spider-Man

In honor of Marvel’s next big event, I’ve decided to take a week off of thinking hard. Instead I’ll do what they’re doing: Wasting your time by forcing two characters to fight for your entertainment.

Of course I don’t have the resources to produce artwork. Nor do I have the time to create an actual script. Instead, I’ll just take this idea to a few different levels, and ultimately create enough sweeping declarations to get some beautifully angry comments. I love beautifully angry comments.

In this corner: Bruce “The Rich Kid” Wayne and his amazing belt of knickknacks! That’s right, it’s everyone’s favorite powerless pugilist… the billionaire with bats in his belfry, The Batman!

And in this corner wearing skin-tight underwear and a mask without a mouth hole… Marvel’s favorite orphan, Peter “I was a jerk once, and I’m paying for it every day…” Parker! That’s right, it’s the web-slinging, science-spitting, devil-befriending behemoth… The Sensational Spider-Man!

Now there are a few ways to tally the fight. Since I’ve got inches of column to waste, let’s start with the obvious: In a street fight with absolutely no planning, Spider-Man would stomp Batman into a bloody pulp. Bats may have one of the greatest minds in comics, but at the end of the day, no amount of gadgets and Kevlar will out-match a fighter like Spider-Man. Not only is Spidey more agile, he’s also got superior strength and maneuverability. Batman can use all the kung fu in his repertoire, but Spider-Man has the actual super-powers.

I will concede this though: if these two were pitted against one another and had any chance to plan the bout, Batman would knock Parker out like the Orkin Man. Batman’s tactics, gadgets, and ability to use his terrain to his advantage trumps Spider-Man’s physical prowess. And while Spidey is a super-genius… a brilliant fighter he is not. Simply put, with any amount of time to prepare, Brucey’s coming out bruised but boastful.

Fan-service aside, how about we put these two against one another by way of the TeeVee. On the silver screen, Bats takes the trophy. Spider-Man had a few live action cameos on the Electric Company, and a simply too-terrible-to-believe live action show. Batman had Adam West. And you can say what you want about those kooky cavalcades with Burt Ward… but the zeitgeist here nods towards the cape and cowl when it comes to overall quality. Somedays, you just don’t have a place to throw a bomb.

When the battle gets animated, that’s really where Spidey gets killed. Not for lack of trying. The late 60s gave us a decent Spider-Man cartoon. Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends was… a larf. In the 90s Fox Kids gave us a series that started strong, but became hampered by way-too-long season arcs, and an entirely forgettable last season – that saw the trope of guest stars used piss-poorly. In the mid-late-aughts the Sensational Spider-Man was fantastically done, but cut way too short. In contrast, Batman started slow (in the Super Friends, and then helping out Scooby Doo), but finished amazingly. Yeah The Batman in the early aughts was an atrocity, but Bruce Timm’s animated Batman Adventures wrote the bible on quality cartoons. And The Brave and the Bold was a campy trip that started off too-kiddie, but quickly found its footing in the hyper-kitsch fan-service delivery. By my count Bats wins by four Emmys.

OK, so Bat’s wins the battle of the silver screen. How about we take a trip to the movies? Consider my math: Spider-Man 1? A minus. Spider-Man 2? A solid A. Spider-Man 3? … D. Now over at the Batcamp, let’s take stock. The Adam West Bat-Movie? Don’t count. The Burton Bat-Films: B. The Schumaker Schlock? D… if I’m being nice. The Nolan-verse? Well, if there’s a grade above A, I’d give it. At the end of the day, there’s been more guano out there than there’s been Spider-poop. So I tip the hat to the wacky web-shooter in the battle of the big screen. And he can take that win to the sock-hop.

But how about where it really counts? On the page. I guess I’m sad to say I don’t have the proper license to weigh in on that particular bout. As I stated last week, my exposure to Spider-Man in comics-proper is poor at best. Admittedly I have a very extensive Bat-Collection, so I’m more than likely biased. Given my knowledge though of Spider-Man’s bullet-list of plot threads, I might still be inclined to tip the hat back to the Bat. He does have a few decades more history to draw on though, so it may very well be an unfair fight.

I will say this: In the time since my birth, Batman has had his back broken, his mantle stolen, his sidekick murdered, his life unraveled by several secret societies, his bastard son joining his menagerie, and has survived two or ten universal resets.

In that same amount of time, all I’ve really heard about Spider-Man that really stuck was that he nixed his marriage to Mary Jane to save Aunt May. And there was a clone saga people didn’t like. And he had an Iron-Spider suit. And a black suit. And a cosmic suit. And at some point was tied to an ancient race of animal totem warriors or something. In terms of only recognizable milestones (that haven’t been universally hated) … Batman would take the crown. Prove me wrong.

So there you have it. A few hundred words on an amazing battle. So it’s time for you weigh in. Was I too favorable to Time-Warner’s titan? Does Spider-Man have more going for him than a six-pack and a quip dictionary? Who has the better rogues gallery? Who has the better friends? Man, this could be a whole new column next week. I guess it depends on you, the gentle reader of my column.

At the end of the day, in the battle between Batman and Spider-Man? The winner is you.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

 

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