Sunday, November 19, 2017
I had no intention of seeing Justice League (2017).
It's not that I don't like the Justice League as characters or concept - I'm a comics guy who tilts toward DC Comics, and once had a complete run of everything from Morrison's JLA run in the 90's to 2011 (I sold if off during the purging of longboxes about two years ago*). My bonfides include significant runs of Wonder Woman, Superman and Flash comics, reasonable Batman-cred, and having had watched the respective movies and TV shows featuring the JLA characters in a wide variety of live-action and animated incarnations (with exceptions which I can discuss but won't do here). I will happily test my DC Comics-Fu against any of you nerds (but not Mark Waid).
I'm on record regarding Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman. One of these films was much, much better than the other three. Let's just say 2017 was much better for DC than prior years.
It's no secret those first three movies left me a broken, bitter man. The very ethos of the films was so far afield from the DCU I knew and loved, and the take on Superman so fundamentally broken (and at the end of the day, I'm a Superman guy), that I just didn't want to do it again. I'd watch it on cable or when JimD sent me the BluRay against my protestations.
Then, as of Thursday I guess, trusted sources, such as creators Mark Waid, Gail Simone, Sterling Gates and our own readers including Stuart and JimD saw the movie, and weren't furious at it. They had some nice things to say. So, I got my tickets and I went to a 10:45 PM show on Friday evening.
Let's be honest: Justice League has massive plotting issues, bizarrely genericizes and changes Kirby's Fourth World mythology in a way that makes it feel one-note to audiences who don't know their Granny Goodness from their Mister Rogers while also ruining the epic world building for fans of The New Gods (one of the most important ideas in superhero comics and comics in general).** It has some terrible CGI, I hate the Flash's costume (a TV show should not be kicking your butt in this arena), and not nearly enough Amy Adams for my dollar. ***
After three narrative and character misfires and one absolute gem of a superhero movie (you're my hero, Patty Jenkins), shake-ups in management at DC, a switch of directors, reshoots, a slashing of runtime by nearly an hour... Some combo of people and factors finally seemed to care a bit about, at least, Superman. If nothing else, they got Superman right. And I cannot tell you how much of a difference that made to me as a viewer watching the film and what I was willing to deal with and what I wasn't.
Monday, July 31, 2017
Like every other DC Comics nerd, I know Andrea Romano's name from watching my Batman, Superman and Justice league cartoons a little too closely. And, of course, the extras on the DVD sets.
It seems she's hanging up her... headset? microphone? and passing off her duties as she heads into well-earned retirement.
It's hard to say how one measures the skill of a voice director for cartoons, but here's a sample of shows she's worked on:
- Chip N' Dale Rescue Rangers
- Duck Tales
- Tiny Toon Adventures
- Batman: The Animated Series
- Batman Beyond
- Static Shock
- Justice League
- Teen Titans
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold
- Spongebob Squarepants
- The Boondocks
and a whole lot more
I know the folks 10 or 15 years younger than me will disagree because they've got nostalgia on their side, but I couldn't ever figure out what was wrong with the acting in the Marvel cartoons of the 1990's (or, heck, today). The voice acting always sounded rushed, like people just shouting lines into a mic. But DC's work always sounded natural, like a radio show or movie, just animated. Her characters were distinct, had their own cadences and personalities.
And when you think of shows like Animaniacs or Tiny Toons - those voices were so specific and as much a part of the characters as any cell animation - you can't really separate the two. Hell, the Warner Brothers (and the Warner Sister) still bounce around in my head in perfect pitch.
Yeah, that's because WB has a great stable of voice actors, but they've also been working under Romano for decades now. She brought in name talent like Clancy Brown for Superman, and she found a fellow by the name of Kevin Conroy and made him "the" Batman for two or three generations of fans, no matter who was putting on the cowl in the feature films.
Back when I was still buying DVDs and BluRays of DC movies and series, I'd always jump immediately to the extras and hope they'd have an interview with Romano, who was casual but a total pro every time she was on camera. Her feel for the characters and, really, how to work with actors was superb, and it played out in every story, in every series and movie and arc. And even though she's not associated with Justice League Action - which all of you should be watching - the show's production carries so much of her stamp, such is her legacy at at WB Animation.
I'm sad she's retiring, because it means less of her work, but it's important to say a big thanks to Ms. Romano, who has been such a huge part of so many hours of entertainment we've all been able to enjoy, and who's amazing abilities elevated an artform that many thought of hokey kid stuff.
Here's to you, ma'am.
Saturday, June 10, 2017
This one hurts.
Adam West has passed at the age of 88.
Literally my earliest memories include watching Batman starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. Steans-family lore states that my first words were "Batman" as I ran around our home with my security blanket around my neck.
The story is that I was toddler-ish and Jason was two years older, and my mom, The Karebear, had to make us dinner before my Dad got home from work (dude worked hard and late). In order to wrangle me, her ADD wunderkind, she figured out that I'd sit perfectly still for Batman, which happened to be on in syndication right when she needed to fire up the stove.
When the Michael Keaton-starring "serious" Batman was released, in 1989, when I was 14, the show came back on cable, and I totally got what they were up to. Somehow, inbetween, like many of my generation, there'd been some confusion about the show being a drama that was kind of stupid and something you grew out of. But, nope, the show had been winking to the older crowd all along.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Y'all have already seen this one, so no lengthy post here. But that was a really fun movie, and maybe the best intro to the full range of Bat-dorkiness from DC Comics, the movies, the TV shows...
That was just a blast.
And, now I need a lot of white and crystal Lego, because I really want to build a Lego Fortress of Solitude.
Saturday, December 3, 2016
So, I was at work and I DM'd Jamie.
Me: You want to watch a Christmas movie tonight?
Jamie: Yeah. "Batman Returns"?
Me: *a single tear of joy rolling down my cheek, certain I married the right woman*
I didn't immediately get to see Batman Returns (1992) upon its release. I was at a (sigh) 7 week drama camp for high schoolers that was well worth the money as, in week 2, I realized I absolutely did not want to major in drama when I did go to college. So when I got home and more or less immediately drove to go see the movie, I was aware it was "weird", "not as good as the first one" and the other things people were saying at the time. My memory of seeing the movie that first time was primarily of (a) Catwoman and (b) my girlfriend at the time laughing at me as my 40 oz of soda spilled all down the floor of the theater. Great girl.
It's been a long, long time since I watched this movie. It's nowhere near one of my favorite films, superhero or otherwise, and it's always been a bit of a mess. Sure, it features things I love in theory - a Circus of Crime, penguins loaded down with missiles and helmets, the Batmobile, Michelle Pfieffer... but it also feels like too many cooks were in the kitchen deciding what this movie would be.
Friday, November 11, 2016
If you're looking for some pure, escapist fun to watch with the kids* (and you want to guarantee they'll enjoy the action while you enjoy the jokes), I really can't recommend the newly released Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016) enough.
Monday, September 19, 2016
Happy Birthday to the great Adam West.
You can have your Ben Afflecks and Christian Bales or even your Michael Keatons. I'll take Adam West. My guess is - if you had to pick to have dinner with any of them, you, too, would want to dine with Mr. West.
Today Mr. West is 88 years old, still does tours and whatnot with comic-cons, and in November will see his voice applied to a cartoon version of Batman.
I don't know what to say except in, in the cowl or out - Mr. West is a hero. Let's salute the man and wish him the best of birthdays.
Tuesday, September 6, 2016
In my recent post on the 2016 smash hit Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, in discussing the movie, I tried to stick to what I saw as over-arching issues from a character and structural perspective. I wouldn't say I cherry-picked, but I tried to focus on recurring issues indicative of the larger problem of Snyder and Goyer's take on their universe. I didn't want to get too nitpicky about plot holes. But...
I do still have some plot-related questions, some loops that could be closed. Let's explore together, shall we?
1a. Batman is waiting for Lex's people to come off the White Portugese. I forget how he knew what they had (I'll assume they explained that - probably on the mystery drive), but didn't the Cherry Jolly Rancher scene make it clear that Lex received legal clearance to bring Kryptonite into the country? So - Batman was essentially killing guys for legally moving a government approved research specimen into the country. Can that be right?
1b. So, if Superman lets Batman just kill all those people and then flies off, then what is happening there?
2. The security protocol on the Kryptonian ship (which speaks English, of course) is to state "well, the council doesn't want you to create this terrible abomination which, for some reason, we keep record of how to do in our database", but if you respond without any kind of password protected override of any kind and an unverifiable verbal instruction that the council is no longer in place, the ship will help you make a horrible monster? Wasn't this a chance to show that Lex was some sort of genius by understanding xenotech and by-passing all of that encryption, etc...?
Monday, September 5, 2016
So, I was in no rush to ever see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016).
In summer of 2013, despite the many positives of having a Man of Steel movie even existing, a stellar score by Hans Zimmer and Amy Adams cast as Lois Lane, I never cottoned to the movie, and, in fact, despite the fact my completionist self purchased a deeply discounted BluRay of the movie, it's never found it's way onto the platter for a spin.
But, you know, WB and DCE seemed aware of their problems with Man of Steel. It was a little hard to ignore when adults watching the movie started saying "holy @#$%. Did I just watch a movie where Superman was turning presumably occupied buildings into rubble and started his public career by snapping the neck of the bad-guy? Yeesh." So, despite the return of Zack "I don't understand characters or motivations" Snyder as director and the casting of Jessie "Two Modes of Nebbish" Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, I'd tried to withhold judgment until the reviews hit. And, mostly, the reviews were not kind on many levels. So, I'd stayed away.
But, ha ha ha. One of you (JimD) decided to just send me a copy of the BluRay in the mail. Over the course of two evenings, I watched the movie, trying not to open my computer or look at my phone when the movie got dull (which was more or less 90 of the 150 minutes). I tried to make note of what I liked and didn't like, but - I guess unsurprisingly - the movie offered little to enjoy that was not Amy Adams.
It's not the worst movie I've ever seen. for example - Suicide Squad was just a dumber movie. But BvS:DoJ felt positively adolescent in some ways, and had the storytelling instincts of a five year old relating the events of the day. But it has some interesting stuff in it, too, as far as DC Comics lore.
It's just not a terribly good movie.
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Authorities asking this guy to leave the premises. Says he's a ticket-holder, asked to leave anyway. #trumpinATX pic.twitter.com/meFBfmKNwT— Katie Hall (@Katie_Statesman) August 23, 2016
Monday, August 15, 2016
I'm buying way, way more in the way of DC Comics these days then I have in a few years. Not as many as I might have been back in the hey-day around 2007 (back when I was practically panic-buying comics, afraid I'd miss something), or even as many as I was in the days before DC's New 52 effort launched, but I'm back up from, like, 3 per month (I was picking up Action, sometimes Superman, Sensation Comics and Wonder Woman '77 when it came out).
But, back then, I was literally picking up about 25 DC titles per month, I think. It was a lot, but I was a Wednesday comics guy, I liked keeping up weekly and monthly with all the ongoing characters and stories, seeing what would happen, good, bad, otherwise, and it was the constant decision-making of "is this comic worth picking up or should I try something else?". At the core of all the titles I read were four characters - Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash and Batman (in a somewhat managed capacity as there was always too much Batman on the shelf). The rest were usually up for debate.
With Rebirth, I'm picking up a few titles:
Supergirl (not yet released)
All Star Batman
Trinity (not yet released)
and probably the Super Sons title or whatever it's called, which will come out this Fall.
I'll be waiting on word from folks to see if any of the Green Lantern titles are worth it, but I'm not holding my breath. When they quit making the book about the Corps shattering and reforming and shattering and reforming, somebody wake me up and alert me.
Saturday, July 30, 2016
Fifty years ago today, Batman premiered at Austin's own Paramount Theatre! Above, you can see Adam West in person addressing the crowd and Congress Avenue completely blocked (something I don't even think happens during SXSW).
The Paramount was showing the movie today, but I had something I had to do during the day and couldn't make it (and I've seen it about 7 times, at least).
Here's a write-up from when I went to see the movie at the Paramount in June of 2010.
Here's a video you can watch at the Texas Archive of the Moving Image of Jean Boone interviewing actors from the movie inside The Paramount.
The Batboat - which appears in this movie, was also manufactured right here in Austin by Glastron Industries.
I didn't learn of Batman's Austin history until about 2009, and I am certain, had I known about all the bat-ties to Austin as a kid, it would have melted by brain and I would have seen way, waaaaayyy too much symbolism in Austin's gigantic bat population.
What's perhaps strangest is that Monday, two days from now, is the 50th anniversary of the UT Tower shootings. The UT Tower sits at about 23rd Street, about 15 streets away as the crow flies (the Capitol and several other obstructions mean you can't drive straight through).
Kind of freaky.
Saturday, May 28, 2016
I did not love every living word and panel of DC's mea culpa in comic form, but it made me realize how long it has been since I've read a new comic book from DC and didn't feel like I needed to just put it down and walk away. If Rebirth succeeded on any level - it did not make me kind of sad while I was reading it, nor think "well, this is what they're doing these days, and the kids seem to like it, so I guess this is DC Comics now". I got to just mostly enjoy a DC Comic, even enjoy the familiar frustration of "well, now how is THAT going to work?" as I looked at some of what the book was pitching as the new direction for DC Comics publishing line.
It's been a few days, so I really don't think I need to explain what Rebirth is, except to my brother - so, Jason: That New 52 thing I've been whining about the past few years? Turns out sales have been plummeting line-wide for DC since the first year or so, and they've decided that maybe they went too far in the "grim n' gritty" comics direction, and now they're remembering that the idea behind superheroes is that they're a force for positive change. So, starting here, DC is trying to wrap up the New 52 as a direction for the publishing line while remaining basically in continuity. They'll start by renumbering most series (again) and remember that it's kind of a bummer to read about people in tights running about feeling miserable every second of the day, so, maybe stop with the endless Pyrrhic victories and mopey heroes.
The "Rebirth" brand at DC was never one of rebooting. In both Flash Rebirth and Green Lantern Rebirth, continuity remained intact, but DC brought back longstanding characters and principles to characters and concepts that had strayed from the sort of Platonic ideal of those characters. In Flash, we saw the return of Barry Allen full time for the first time since Crisis on Infinite Earths. Wally, Bart, Jay and everyone else would be around, but Barry was our focal Flash - complete with a new backstory that didn't reflect the pre-Crisis DCU continuity (Nora Allen was murdered). Green Lantern saw the return of Hal Jordan to the land of the living, the Parallax storyline transmogrified into epic space opera that spun out the colored rings. Both of these I enjoyed.
Rebirth is not another Crisis. It seems to be retaining the New 52 continuity, so far anyway, and is really not so much an answer as a gigantic question mark both from a story and editorial perspective. Or, rather, a series of questions marks or possible paths for all of us who walked away from DC to consider what teasers from the books we'd be interested in pursuing with our dollars.
Everything from here below contains spoilers. You're on your own if you keep reading.
Saturday, May 14, 2016
I hadn't watched this movie in a few years, but I've got a shelf full of Batman films, cartoons and TV, and on Friday night - in the wake of finishing The Caped Crusade: Batman and The Rise of Nerd Culture, it felt like time to review some Batman again.
Not sure what to watch, I just gave Jamie some options, and she selected Batman Begins.
Monday, May 9, 2016
Here's what I know after reading Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture (2016) - I would love to spend a couple hours at a bar with author Glen Weldon knocking back a couple of cocktails and talking comics.
The book is a perfect compliment to the sort of discussion we've been having here at The Signal Watch the past few years, from our Gen-X Recollection Project (still ongoing! Send in your posts!), to trying to contextualize what we see in movies of the past and present as seasoned dorks.
As a matter of course, I've read a few Superman retrospectives, but very few feel like an honest conversation. Les Daniels' works read like what they are - honest if fairly sanitary historical accounts of the rise of Superman in all media. The very-well-selling Larry Tye book felt like a lot of research into something the author felt would move books but for which he had little personal affinity and seemed surprised that Superman wasn't the character he remembered from his years watching The Adventures of Superman. Author Tom De Haven has the strangest relationship with Superman, having written a full novel re-imagining the character from the ground up (in ways that often seemed far, far off the mark), and then a sort of retrospective that made it clear - he kinda hates Superman.
But aside from Les Daniels and a few excerpts in books like Ten Cent Plague and Men of Tomorrow, I haven't read up as much on Batman. I actually heard of author Glen Weldon when he put out a book called Superman: The Unauthorized Biography. I purchased the book, but hadn't read it as I had a stack of books I was making it through. Still haven't read it, honestly, aside from the first few pages, which had me cackling in recognition of someone who truly knew their Superman. But, two days after I picked up the Superman book, Weldon announced on twitter his Batman book was coming, and as I'd just finished the Tye Superman book, I figured - I'll just wait for that one.
I really can't recommend Caped Crusade enough. This is a "run, don't walk" sort of recommendation.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
About three years ago I did a post where I took a bunch of photos of my collections. But it's been a while, so I thought for National Superhero Day, I'd take some pics and show you where we're at today with the collections of The Fortress of Nerditude/ League HQ/ Signal Watchtower.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
I have an employee who is into geek-culture stuff in a way that doesn't include actual comics. She likes horror movies, Army of Darkness, and watches the TV shows and movies based on comics. She just finished watching Daredevil (so say we all), and she was wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shirt with art from the 90's cartoon while she was talking to me about the show.
"You know," I said, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a by-product of Daredevil."
She eyed me, somewhat skeptically.
"Frank Miller made ninjas cool in comics via the Daredevil comics run they're adapting for the show. After that, ninjas were everywhere in comics, but Miller did them best. It was the 1980's and Eastman and Laird were drinking beer and figuring out what might be popular for a comic and, hey, NINJAS. The 'Teenage Mutant' part is referring to some X-Men stuff. New Mutants, I think."
The look of skepticism was giving way to a bit of fear.
"Yes, I think you can argue that Bruce Lee started the craze, but in comics, I point to Frank Miller."
"Yeah," I said, refusing to let it go. "The crazy turtle uses sai, right? Elektra! That's Miller. What's the name of the bad guys the Shredder works with?"
She felt a trap. "The Foot?" she ventured.
"Uh huh. And the name of the ninjas in Daredevil?"
"Right. Now... let's talk about how Frank Miller is responsible for Batman v. Superman."
She was not impressed.
"Directly or indirectly, Jack Kirby and Frank Miller are responsible for everything in media right now," I concluded.
I don't think she bought a word of it.
In general, I'd argue the conversations the comics kids are having online these days don't seem to talk so much about what's happening in their comics as they do the characters in broad strokes, undergrad 101 media criticism of race and gender (which I welcome) and the creators, like they're following demi-celebrities who might talk back to them.*
Monday, April 4, 2016
Most people don't know that, prior to selecting Dick Grayson as his sidekick, Batman briefly worked with Jamie. Until he found out she just sort of uselessly windmills her arms in a fight and that she tires easily.
Monday, March 28, 2016
|Batman ponders the Super Package|
Although perhaps less so every year in a world of constantly sub-divided attention, movies and television are the modern cultural touchstones. More than news, political figures or even war, there's nothing like a $400 million dollar movie to get everyone around the world doing the same thing on a Saturday. International dominance of American cinema means that films transcend boundaries and political ideologies as Hollywood carefully crafts non-political films with standard "good v evil" tropes, without ever casting a particular point of view, aside from "evil menace" as the bad guy.
We aren't all just film viewers, we are all film reviewers. We see a film, we consider that film against other films, source material and our particular perspective. Sometimes we write that thought down. The job requires no credentialing, and while some people are paid to look at movies, sum them up and say a few words about the relative merit of a film, others do this endlessly, fruitlessly on their own (cough), but it is something we all do mentally. We are all ready to write a column for the local paper. We all have the best, most nuanced of opinions.
Most of what you see in the press I think of as "reviewers" more than "critics". Somehow, someway, those folks parlayed an interest in going to a bunch of movies every week into a job where they then must writer 1000 words about that movie. A review contains a synopsis, who stars in a movie, and some sort of opinion about the movie. Some make it colorful - and in this era of anyone with a keyboard having the ability to publish, you gotta write some colorful stuff to get clicks.
How to separate a critic from a reviewer?
Well, a reviewer is a person with a local newspaper column or a website. It's me. It's you. Your aunt who posts things to facebook.
There are two definitions of critic, I think.