Tagged: The Dark Knight

Dennis O’Neil: Our Christmas Funnies

If memory serves – and how often does that happen? – I saw my first 2012 Christmas decorations in late summer. In Miami, maybe? At the merchandise mart that adjoined the convention hotel? Anyway, months before anything resembling the start of the Holiday Season, which seems to have climbed into the vicinity of Halloween.

(And are you now bracing for one of my hate-Christmas screeds? Am I preparing to validate Fox News’s diatribes against The War On Christmas, ho ho ho? Naw. Maybe next year.)

What I am wondering, though, is whether any of our comic book bretheren still produce the annual Christmas story. In fact, I’m wondering if they ever did. I know that I wrote at least a couple of them, two featuring The Dark Knight (ah, but was he a silent knight? a holy knight?) and a third, I think, starring one of his favorite adversaries, that feminine feline funster, Catwoman. Two of these were commissioned, produced by editorial fiat, and what the hell? We’re pros, right? Guy behind the desk says Christmas story and we say, how many pages and when? The other, a Batman, may have been my idea, or, more likely, it may have originated with My Favorite Editor, Julius Schwartz.

And, o holy holly, while typing the above, I forget the weirdest Christmas-Meets-Batman of them all: A Slaying Song Tonight. This eight-pager appeared in an anthology, Batman Black and White, and I’m pretty sure it was my idea to make the thing a Christmas story and if you insist on my telling you why, I’d guess that I hadn’t done a Christmas piece in a long time and I felt like revisiting old turf. Maybe I shouldn’t even mention this because it surely wasn’t an annual anything: rather it was, as they say in the British publishing dodge, “a one-off.”

(An oddity concerning Batman Black and White: the book was conceived and edited by DC’s color editor, Mark Chiarello. And for those of you who haven’t seen it: yeah, every story in it was in black-and-white. And consider this a Recommended Reading. And finally, to end this windy digression – Mark, if Slaying Song was your idea, I apologize.)

Where were we…? Wondering if comics do Christmas stories anymore. Well, if they aren’t published, or if there are fewer of them than in days of yore, it may be because these stories, from Dickens onward, were focused on one day, a holiday, Christmas. Well, Christmas isn’t a day, not for a while now. A … what? Season? That’s closer. What it has evolved into, this Christmas, is something we don’t have a name for. Not yet. Shall we coopt a bit from an old Seinfeld and call it “festivus”? Or how about frumalackel? You like that – frumalackel? Sleep on it.

Frumalackel or Christmas, I’m not complaining. It is what it is – what it has become, and it is not wise to argue with reality, and so I won’t. Not this year.

Next year? Who knows?

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

 

The Tower Chronicles Marks the Arrival of Legendary Comics

Legendary Comics launches their first series today with The Tower Chronicles: Geisthawk – Volume 1, from Matt Wagner and Simon Bisley. The 48-page prestige format release begins a new universe that represents the kinds of comics Legendary intends to explore. The Tower Chronicles is the tale of John Tower, a supernatural bounty hunter. His missions lead him into mankind’s most dangerous places to banish poltergeists, demons, and other supernatural evils that plague his “sometimes respectable” patrons.

The first issue sports two different covers, one from Bisley, perhaps best remembered for his work on Lobo in the 1990s, and Jim Lee, DC Entertainment’s co-publisher, inked by his usual partner Scott Williams. The series is being inked by Rodney Ramos, the journeyman inker best known for his work on Transmetropolitan.

The Tower Chronicles: Geisthawk – Volume 1 was written by Wagner (Grendel and Mage) in consultation with Thomas Tull, founder of Legendary Pictures. It’s interesting to note that the copyright is shared by Wagner and Legendary. The story is set in contemporary times but clearly has supernatural elements starting with Tower himself and the monsters he is charged with apprehending. As usual, Wagner’s writing is clear and never less than interesting to read. Bisley’s claustrophobic, dark artwork is great for the monsters, less so for the people inhabiting the pages.

The first serial is part of a trilogy, Wagner has told the media he has already written a total of eight volumes so the adventures are only just beginning.

The comic imprint is a subsidiary of Legendary Pictures which has co-produced countless films including many in the genre such as 300 and The Dark Knight trilogy. Editing the line is Bob Schreck, formerly of Dark Horse and DC Comics. Last year, the company debuted with Frank Miller’s former Batman project, Holy Terror.

Wagner and Schreck are taking reader questions over at the title’s Facebook page. There, additional background on the world and characters are presented, along with previews of subsequent stories

REVIEW: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1

Years in the making, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns was never intended to rewrite the rules for the Caped Crusader or become the template for a generation of storytelling. It was, though, the culmination of a series of events that occurred at DC Comics and in Miller’s professional development that nicely dovetailed together. The right book, character, and creator all arrived at the right time, when an audience was ready to accept the radical re-imagining.

Ever since the four-part story heralded the arrival of the Prestige Format and was the first entry in the current field of graphic novels, The Dark Knight Returns has been an influential touchstone to storytellers. Its use of character, page construction, color, and theme showed that four-color heroes can be used for darker concepts, exploring new ideas. As a result, people have been clamoring to see it adapted for the screen, any screen, so it could continue to thrill us. We were teased with the folk at Warner Animation paying homage to Miller’s art style and now-iconic imagery in Animaniacs and Batman the Animated Series.

At long last, Warner Premiere has delivered their finest effort, paying tribute to the story written and pencilled by Miller, inked by Klaus Janson, and colored by Lynn Varley. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 is out on home video, as a Combo Pack (Blu-ray, DVD, Ultraviolet) and shows the affection from the first frame.

Bob Goodman remained utterly faithful to the story, compressing the first half of the graphic novel into a brisk 76 minutes that still contains the moments you want. Commissioner James Gordon and Bruce Wayne have a nice, warm friendship, Alfred remains his acerbic self, and Carrie Kelly is gung-ho and awkward. The first half of the story deals with several threats to Gotham City, first the gang known as the Mutants and their muscle-bound leader who wants to own the town; and Harvey Dent, seemingly physically cured but proving his mind is as fractured as ever. And watching from confinement is a homicidal maniac long-thought drugged into submission.

The best thing director Jay Oliva, who cut his teeth on Man of Steel and Green Lantern: Emerald Knights), did was show us what Miller could only hint at: a 50-year old man who really has to struggle to keep up. He strains to climb a rope and isn’t fast enough to take down the mutant leader the first time they brawl (in fact their two fights is almost a template for the Batman-Bane confrontations in The Dark Knight Rises). This is a 50+ hero who hasn’t seen action in a decade, but we know from the opening scene he remains addicted to adrenaline and action. His return evokes the creature of the night that first established his reputation in the city and once more inspires the populace.

Visually, Miller’s beefed up main characters and gritty style is nicely replicated, complete with making Batman larger-than-life so he dwarfs Carrie and most other mortals. The story remains a future from the fixed point of the 1980s since the story is dependent on that particular view of America, which means so much of the technology appears antiquated by today’s standards but works wonderfully. There’s also a nice meta shout-out to other titles from 1985-87 that helped reshape comics: Crisis on Infinite Earths, Watchmen, and V for Vendetta.

As usual Andrea Romano has assembled a stellar cast for the voices and while most will lament the absence of Kevin Conroy as Batman, Peter Weller more than ably fills the cape and cowl with gravitas. He’s older, wearier. David Selby’s Gordon has much of the same feeling which is nicely contrasted by Ariel Winter’s Carrie. Wade Williams as Dent and Michael McKean as a blowhard psychiatrist nicely round out the cast.

Interestingly, the packaging avoids imitating Miller’s style, a curious choice. Similarly, Miller, Janson and Varley’s lack of participation in the extras is glaring. They are merely represented with a digital comic excerpt from issue one of The Dark Knight. Instead, we get “Her Name if Carrie…Her Role is Robin” (12:00) with Grant Morrison, Mike Carlin, Alan Burnett, Bruce Timm, and others discussing the radical use of a girl as the new sidekick. There are some nice bits placing this in an historic context.  The 2008 “Batman and Me: The Bob Kane Story” (38:00) is reused here and we’re reminded of the egotistical Kane avoiding sharing credit with anyone.

On the Blu-ray is a Two-Face two-parter from Batman the Animated Series. There’s also a sneak peek of part two, due out in early 2013.

It’s a shame Miller wouldn’t participate and the film lacks a commentary track since bringing this to life appears to have been a labor of love for all involved.

REVIEW: The Art and Making of the Dark Knight Trilogy

The Art and Making of the Dark Knight Trilogy
By Jody Duncan Jesser and Janine Pourroy
304 pages, Abrams, $40

There is so much visually wonderful about Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman films that this book seemed an obvious event. An oversized hardcover, it has amazing production values with gorgeous photography on heavy paper, cleanly designed (thank you, Chip Kidd), and overall appealing. Clearly, the authors had access to everyone from Nolan on down and they spoke freely about the challenges of conceiving themes to marketing the films.

And yet, everything feels like we’ve just touched the surface and each chapter –Screenplay, Production Design, Cast, Costumes & Makeup, The Shoot,  Special Effects & Stunts, Editing, Music & Sound, Visual Effects, and Marketing – all leave you wondering about what else happened. For example, during the Shoot, one chapter per film, you never get a feel for how Nolan directs his cast, or how he adjusts to the needs of each actor. How did Katie Holmes and Maggie Gyllenhaal differ in their interpretation of Rachel Dawes. We’re left wondering why the comic book antecedents for most of the characters are referenced but not Henri Ducard nor are we told about the various reveals through the films (such as Ducard really being Ra’s al Ghul, echoed in the third film by Miranda Tate being revealed as Talia). Michael Caine writes an introduction that extols Nolan’s virtues as a director, but after that, we’re still left wondering what those are.

This reads about two steps above the usual press materials sent out when films open, the canned features sent to media outlets hungry for content. The writing is clear and facile, but a little too fawning in spots and far from critical about things that worked and didn’t work.

Perhaps the most glaring omission is a real in-depth look at the wildly successful viral marketing. This section needed more content, more images of the viral marketing at work, and more examples of the Internet phenomena, especially for The Dark Knight, which raised the bar for films.

You get some great shots of how the costumes, sets, and vehicles were built and see some of the shooting challenges that were presented over the last decade. It certainly works as a primer to Nolan’s take on the caped crusader and his world, but you don’t necessarily get into the filmmaker’s head, especially why he felt he was done after three. Nor does he comment how his successful reinterpretation of the hero led to supervising next summer’s Man of Steel. The contributions from screenwriters David S. Goyer and Jonathan Nolan are acknowledged but hearing more from them would have certainly helped us better understand how the films evolved, especially the themes for the final film in the wake of Heath Ledger’s death. Nolan writes in his foreword, “I never thought we’d do a third – are there any great second sequels?” Well, there’s The Last Crusade for starters, but Batman has endured monthly for seventy-five years so the answer is yes.

The book is a fine read but given the size and weight of the tome, one would have hoped for depth in the written content. It leaves you want much, much more and at this price, readers deserve all that and more.

John Ostrander: Aurora

What do we say? How do we react? A guy named James Holmes slipped into a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in a suburban town in Colorado and opened fire with an AR-15 rifle, a shotgun and two 40-caliber handguns. He set off what may have been tear gas as he started his killing spree. According to CNN, the suspect was dressed head to toe in protective gear including a gas mask. CNN also reported that a federal law enforcement official stated Holmes had colored his hair red and told the police he was “the Joker.”

He killed 12 people and wounded 58. As I write this, eleven are in critical condition.

His apartment has been booby trapped with incendiary and chemical devices and trip wires. Residents in the surrounding five buildings have been evacuated. It may take days to defuse it all.

What do we say? What can we say? Should we say anything at all at this point?

If I didn’t think so, I wouldn’t be writing this column. I was working on a different one but I’ve let it go for now. Why?

Words are important. It’s how we take something that is inconceivable, incomprehensible, horrific and give it a shape and form. We communicate thoughts, beliefs, fears and give them a human shape. Some will misuse the power of words and cast the events in terms of their own ideology. They will try to shape the narrative to support or further their views. The events will not be described; they will be twisted. You can see some of this already on the Internet. I know I have.

In the past I have said that nothing that is human is alien to me, that I am capable of understanding anyone on a human level, that somewhere within myself I can find something of that person. Is that true in this case? Am I capable of understanding Holmes?

If I was writing the Joker, I’d have to find somewhere inside of me where I felt like the Joker. And that can take me to very dark places, not places to where I am eager to go. When I was writing Wasteland, I wrote a story from the point of view of a serial killer, or at least what I thought was a perspective a serial killer would have. I now think it was a little naïve. The story was interesting but I don’t know if it was successful in what I set out to do. Would I really want to be successful in that sense? Could I?

The Joker in Nolan’s previous Batman film, The Dark Knight, was not a “criminal” as much as an anarchist forcing Batman and the entire city of Gotham into choices that would reveal that, at heart, they were not better than he was. He would expose them as what his own dark twisted concept of humanity said they must be. Is that what James Holmes thought he was doing? If so, what more appropriate venue that the opening night of the next Batman film?

I’m speculating, of course. Guessing. That’s all any of us can do at the moment. It may be all that we can ever do. I think it’s important that we try. I don’t want to dismiss Holmes as an aberration, a freak, a monster – something that is not me. That’s too easy. He is human. Yes, a very screwed up human but human nonetheless. If I deny him his humanity what happens to mine?

I don’t have answers. Maybe I won’t be able to find any. Maybe the only answers will be the ones I impose on the situation. Maybe I’m wrong and there are monsters. Maybe I’m wrong and it’s not possible to find a common humanity with this killer. In the days and weeks to come, we’ll have more information. Maybe that will help; maybe it won’t. The attempt, I think, is necessary.

We also need to look at a basic fear underlying all this, one that hits home.

The Dark Knight Rises’ director, Christopher Nolan, was quoted as saying, “The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me.” I think that’s true for all of us in this little community. This is our home, too, and this weekend was supposed to be a triumph for us in a summer of triumphs – the best summer of comic book movies ever. Now it’s sullied, bloodied and sullied, and whatever sales records the film sets, whatever awards it may win, that opening night in Aurora will be forever linked to it.

And I think that what we fear, deep down, is the possibility that the killer may have been one of us – a deranged, twisted version but one of us nonetheless. That’s the fear we need to name and only words will ultimately serve.

Let’s talk – and listen.

Monday: Mindy Newell

 

JOHN OSTRANDER: WWKL?

This week marked fifteen years since the death of my sometime writing partner and lovely wife, Kimberly Ann Yale. Since here we talk about pop culture in so many different forms, I thought I would pose myself a question – WWKL? What Would Kim Like? What has come out since her death that she would really have gotten into?

Let’s start right here – on the Internet. First of all, she would have loved ComicMix and probably would have had her own column here. Kim was a terrific essayist – much better at it than me, I think. She was thoughtful, she picked words with care and grammar and punctuation really mattered to her. Me? If it gets past spellchek, I’m good.

In fact, I think Kim would have been all over the Internet. She would have had a blog or two or three, she would have been answering other peoples’ blogs, she would have been Queen of Facebook. Facebook was invented for someone like Kim. She would have had a bazillion friends on FB. I would have had to pry the computer from her.

Kim was also big into monsters and horror, vampires being her especial faves. I think she would have favored True Blood over the others because of the sex and the melodrama and the Southern-fried aspects of it all. (Kim’s mom was Southern and Kim fancied herself as a Southern belle. Kind of hard to do when you’re born up North but her mind worked it around.) The Dark Shadows movie starring Johnny Depp? Eeeeeeeeee! She would be camped out for it right now.

I think both The Walking Dead comic and TV series would have sucked her in but she would have been tickled by Shaun Of The Dead. Kim had a terrific sense of humor and the world’s most infectious laugh. Trust me – if you were a stand-up comic or doing a comedy in the theater, you wanted Kim in the audience.

I wonder what she would have made of Cowboys And Aliens? She was the one who got me started watching westerns and they were among her favorite genre films and, of course, adding sci/fi to it would have really intrigued her but I’m not sure what she would have made of the execution. I only give it two stars and I think she would have agreed (Kim also worked as a movie critic back in Chicago for a small suburban newspaper, so she could really knew how to dissect a movie.)

On the cowboys and spaceships mode, I think she would have been into both Firefly and the movie tie-up, Serenity. And Nathan Fillion would have led her to the Castle TV series (she also loved fun mysteries and strong female characters).

Then there’s Doctor Who. Kim and I met at a Doctor Who con (actually, a combined Doctor Who / Chicago Comic Con) and she would have rejoiced at the Doctor’s return. I think she would have liked David Tennant’s Doctor the best; she would have described him as a “creamie” – as in cream your jeans. However, she would have liked all three incarnations that have come out since the series’ return and, as a writer, would really enjoyed Stephen Moffat’s writing and now running of the franchise. She would have also liked his take on Sherlock Holmes and on Jekyll and Hyde. I stopped watching the latter during its first season; not because it wasn’t good but because it really creeped me out too much.

On movies, she would have been amazed and ecstatic with The Lord of the Rings trilogy and would, as Mary and I are doing, been waiting impatiently for The Hobbit movies coming out. Viggo Mortensen would also have been counted as a creamie.

She would have been fascinated by how CGI made superhero movies possible and what happened as a result. Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, especially The Dark Knight, would have sucked her in and, come Hallowe’en, she would have dressed up as Ledger’s Joker, no question in my mind about it.  I think, however, she would have been even more taken with Inception – Kim had an active dreamscape and tried to spend as much time in it as possible so the movie’s setting would have fascinated her.

She would have liked Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man (less so the sequel) not only because he was so good (and he was) but because she was also a sucker for redemption stories and Downey’s reclamation of his career would have stirred her. She would also have really liked Chris Hemsworth as Thor (creamie) and the whole Captain America film and she would really be anticipating The Avengers, not the least because Joss Whedon is helming it.

I could go on much longer but I think I’ve tried everyone’s patience enough. I may be just projecting onto Kim what some of my own likes and dislikes are but it refreshes her memory in my own mind and heart, keeping the flame alive. She was full of life and she would have brought that with her into the future. Like all those we treasure, she lives on in me and in all those she loved and loved her.

Memory doesn’t die with the body, and neither does love.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

 

Monday Mix Up: “Batman: The Animated Series” and “Arkham City”

Monday Mix Up: “Batman: The Animated Series” and “Arkham City”

A scene from Batman: The Animated Series

It’s been almost twenty years since Batman: The Animated Series hit the airwaves and kicked off the doors of what could be done with the character and with animation in general and television animation in particular, in the wake of the successful Michael Keaton movies.

Ever wonder what it might be like if they made The Animated Series today, in the wake of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight? Perhaps it would be something like this…

Just imagine if he made this using the Animated Series skins for [[[Arkham City]]]…

DC Comics February 2012 Solicitations

We hold in our hands the covers for DC Comics this February. As a child of four can plainly see, these comics have been hermetically sealed in a CGC 9.9 slab, and they’ve been kept in a #2 mayonnaise jar under a giant stack of returned copies of Holy Terror since noon today.

What do we have worth noting? The new look of Darkseid, and we’re far enough into the new 52 books that it’s time for Batman to start crossing over in all of them. Plus Mara Jade, the red-haired assassin who fell in love with her blond-haired man she was sent to kill– oh, I’m sorry, that’s from Star Wars. This is Mera in a jade outfit. Our mistake.

Shall we? Surely!

As usual, spoilers may lurk beyond this point.

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DC Comics November Solicitations

Because you demanded it, true beli– no wait, that’s the other guys.

But we’re here with the solicitations for DC Comics for Novemeber, coming soon to a Previews catalog near you. The New 52 keep rolling along, and we have the Sergio Aragones version of Batman immortalized in a statue.

So let’s take a look!

Details? Yes, we have details…

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