Showing posts with label batman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label batman. Show all posts

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Imaginary EIC Hat - Rules I'd Implement for Superhero Comics

If you've read comics for any length of time, there are tricks and tropes and storylines we've all seen, and worst and best practices for superhero comics.

Sometimes the worst practice stuff seems to get followed because things happen in the fog of trying to put a monthly comic out in a timely fashion, sometimes it's because you can tell the new writer hasn't done any homework prior to coming on and the editor appears to have a laissez-faire attitude regarding what their writers are doing, and more often than I care to admit, I look at comments online and am shocked by how many people really like the worst-practice stuff and are willing to say so out-loud.

I've considered a few things I find grating overall, considered their impact, and how often these could be used and still feel like, perhaps familiar ideas after a while, but to help keep them a little fresh or maintain their impact, we've given a rate for how often they can be used.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

In which we consider DC's June post "Convergence" shake-up and new costumes


I kind of want to be out of the business of thinking about DC's moves as a company, because it's equal parts equally unsatisfying and depressing.

In case you missed the interview with Co-Publishers Dan Didio and Jim Lee that was featured at places like Comic Book Resources yesterday, they're basically moving forward by going back to not tying every book in the DC line to superhero mainline continuity.  As comics were up through the 1980's, DC and Marvel surely put out Superman and Spider-Man, but we didn't need to worry how that fit in with Teen-Age Romance Comics or Katy Keene In Love or whatever made up title I just made-up.

And DC is going back to - maybe not putting out Teen-Age Romance Comics - but they are saying "not everything here is in the main DCU, so quit worrying about that".

Jim Lee, who I am pretty sure has no idea what an actual buyer of comics looks like or thinks, was quick to tell his core audience that we're mistaken for wanting continuity to work in an ongoing serial.  And we were also mistaken for expecting both the New 52 to make sense and the five year time jump to hold together after DC said "it all makes sense, we'll show you" and then absolutely did not do so.

Now, all of this is coming on the heels of Convergence, which is a munging of the DC Multiverse, and because it's been a few years, I think we all needed to expect Didio was going to once again reboot the DCU.  They're not saying that, but they are absolutely saying that the characters will have new, unheard of status quos.  So, practically speaking, a rejigger if not a reboot.

So, let's review the images for the solicitation copy, shall we?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Artist Norm Breyfogle recovering from stroke

If you're anywhere near my age and you read comics in the 1980's, then you know the work of artist Norm Breyfogle.  Norm Breyfogle and Jim Aparo were some of the definitive 1980's Bat-artists - Aparo leaning more to the Neal Adams illustrative mold and Breyfogle's work more impressionistic and visceral.

Breyfogle's lines in Batman evoked energy and action, something he also brought to page layout and panel management.  He has a keen sense of design that even the better illustrative artists couldn't always bring to the page.  It's something a lot of artists could stand to study a bit.

a pretty awesome 2-page spread

Friday, May 10, 2013

Your Humble Blogger and His Next Ride

P5041141 by thekgb2010

P5041141, a photo by thekgb2010 on Flickr.
from the Central Texas Toy and Comic Expo

Jason and I went to San Marcos on Saturday.  I don't collect much Batman stuff as there's so much stuff out there with the Bat logo on it.  But I have always been fascinated with the various iterations of the Batmobile, largely because of the Batman '66 version, the 1989 version and the various looks from Norm Breyfogle when I started reading comics.

You will never not get me to get excited over a well manufactured replica.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

DC Comics Leadership - Still Finding it's Way 18 Months into DCNu

These days I'm only reading a few DC Comics, so it's a bit harder to see what's going on in the halls at the company.  Certainly looking at the release of the monthly solicits is an excellent indicator.

The Beat already did a nice breakdown of some things that really stand out.  Todd Allen points out:

  • The $2.99 line seems to be getting crossed
  • We may not be looking at 52 titles anymore

Batman: One More Time, With Feeling (by Scott Snyder)

This news came on the same day DC announced a storyline called "Batman: Year Zero" to fill in all those gaps you had (right?) about what happened after Batman: Year One.   The story shall be about The Bat-Man, who he is and how he came to be!  Snyder's promise that the series will tell us all the things we've never seen before, like Batman's first run in with a super-villain, is true if you're 20 and just got into comics, abut less true if you dropped all the Batman books but Morrison's because you realized that maybe, in his current comics form, the Bat-fellow is getting pretty repetitive (for first super-villain meetings, we recommend the superlative Batman: Snow by Dan Curtis, JH WIlliams III and the late, terrific Seth Fisher).

I don't know what's more surprising: that Snyder's modus operandi with Batman has been to largely keep digging up the bones of well-loved, well-worn storylines done by some of the name-iest names in comics, or that this seems to be a real draw for the Bat-audience.  I'm old, so I was good with Batman: Year One, A Death in the Family, and every story that wanted to goof on Thomas and Martha Wayne from Hush to Death and the Maidens and was thinking maybe we were ready to move on.  But, short of another gang-war or serial killer story, it seems that all DC has to offer re: Batman these days is another whack at the same worn out Batman origin stuff and tilling about in the same soil of Batman's family history and early years.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Killing Robin. Again.

I think I'd been reading Batman comics for all of a year when DC had the famous dial-in vote where readers got to choose whether or not Jason Todd, the second Robin, would die.  I was a Jason Todd fan, and I was also a kid just getting into comics, so I didn't want to see the character get it, but I was buying comics at the grocery store and book store back then, so any comics were catch-as-catch can.  Finding issues of A Death in the Family, the storyline where all this took place, were incredibly scarce, and only one of my friends got a copy.

Long story short, I didn't get my hands on the comic with the phone number until months after the event when I sat on my pal's bed and read the comics of the storyline in one, long read while he and my brother listened to Van Halen albums.  I never got to cast my vote.  And as close as the vote was, I always wished I'd gotten my chance to save Jason Todd.*

Then, around 2004/2005, Stephanie Brown took Tim Drake's place as Robin just long enough to get fired for reasons and then get killed (only not really) by Black Mask.

And, of course, it never actually happened, but word on the street is that DC head honcho Dan Didio really wanted to kill off Nightwing at one point during Infinite Crisis.

A few years back Grant Morrison took over Batman and introduced Damian Wayne, the son of Bruce Wayne and Thalia al Ghul.  Right out of the box, Damian seemed fully realized as a character, and - unlike most modern new inventions of characters - was in no way an awkward teenager riddled with self-confidence issues nor a Mary Sue.  Pompous, brutal.  Desperately in need of approval from a father figure.  Everything you'd expect out of the grandson of Ra's al Ghul.

Morrison removed Bruce Wayne and put Dick Grayson in the cowl for over a year, during which time Damian put on the domino mask and the "R", and it was actually a great run on the Batbooks.  Bruce returned, as comic characters hurled through space/time/realities are want to do, and we've been able to enjoy Damian and Bruce as Robin and Batman for a while.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

No Post Thursday - Superheroes on TV

I watched the first 2/3rds of What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? for the first time since college, and its even better than I remember.  Saving the rest for tomorrow, but, man, everyone in that movie is so good.

Anyway, we'll talk about that movie later.

And, we really need to find me a copy of Straight Jacket.

Also watched a PBS show, Pioneers of Television, that I think Randy originally sent me the link for.  Anyway, the topics was superheroes, and featured Batman, The Hulk, The Adventures of Superman, The Greatest American Hero and (sigh) Wonder Woman.

You can watch the whole thing on the PBS site, so go nuts.

Watch Superheroes on PBS. See more from Pioneers of Television.

Here, Lynda Carter has had enough of your nonsense:

Here's, like, 9.5 minutes of Diana Prince turning into Wonder Woman.  It's kind of weird.

 And, as a reminder, The Adventures of Superman is a terrific TV show.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Super Watch: Dark Knight Returns, Part 2

There isn't much to say about the plotting of this second installment of the direct-to-video adaptation of Dark Knight Returns that a generation of comics fans grew up with via the comics page.  The dialog, often the framing, the depiction of characters...  It's likely the closest adaptation I think you'll ever run into that doesn't fall into whatever trap Peter Jackson fell into with his The Hobbit Part 1 that felt like a checklist of scenes with no real narrative push or (dare I say it) heart in its desire to lovingly recreate each beat and scene.  Nor is it the Zack Snyder slavish recreation that misses everything about why Watchmen worked, and figures that showing the same stuff we saw on the panel is good enough, even if all the directorial decisions - like casting, emotional beats, musical selection and cinematography - were completely misunderstood.

In this second installment, as an audience we've had the opportunity to get used to Peter Weller as Batman (and he's actually pretty great), and we get Michael Emerson as a giddy, cerebral Joker (God bless you, Andrea Romano).  And, somewhat like the 3rd chapter in the Dark Knight trilogy from Nolan, Batman actually takes a back seat to some of what else is happening in the story.  World War III is seething to break out, Superman's relationship with the government is filled in, and against that backdrop, Batman is still running around concerned with cleaning up the streets of Gotham.  You can almost understand how it got ignored for all those years until he retired.

I recently saw a quote from comics creator Faith Erin Hicks noting how dated Dark Knight Returns felt on a re-read.  She's not entirely wrong, but I sort of also sort of rolled my eyes.  It's a work of its time with undercurrents that remain relevant and resonant.

Comics weren't really intended to have a shelf-life when the book hit the direct market, they were commenting on the moment, and Watchmen is no less a piece of the Cold War than DKR.  And we were so ready to forget about the cloud of nuclear annihilation when Gorbachev instituted Glasnost, I'm not surprised that a generation had grown up without the context, and doesn't quite get what it felt like to do duck and cover drills until everyone admits that it's kind of pointless when you're in about 3rd grade.  Nor has the era of street crime that pervaded the big cities been seen in Gen Y's lifetime (although Chicago spent 2012 doing it's damndest to recreate the era that made "Bloods" and "Crips" household names).

Friday, January 4, 2013

Movies 2012 - The Final Commentary

As mentioned before, I watched and blogged movies 147 times, sort of.  Anyway, the point is, I watched John Carter 3 times, and never regretted it.  Process everything in the rest of this post* with that in mind.

So, the actual experience of deciding to blog every movie for a year was sort of in line with other "for a year I shall..." plans I've had.  Like the year I went vegetarian, just to be difficult. Yes, I did this.

Honestly, I think I was probably way down on number of movies viewed this past year.  I don't know how many movies people normally watch, but I know that for the first time in 5 years, my attendance at the Alamo and Paramount this summer was significantly lower than usual.

All that also took a financial toll in past years, and I've been cutting back on Alamo visits to try to better maintain our finances.  I'm guessing I still hit the movies more than the average bear, but it did feel like a down year for being at the theater, but maybe I made up for that in Cable viewership and watching home video.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Animated Watch: Dark Knight Returns (Part 1)

When I was in 6th grade, I walked into Austin Books and Comics and had some birthday or Christmas money to spend.  I don't remember much about my early days of comics collecting, or chronological order of events, but I most certainly remember standing in ABC, flipping through the pages of a collection of Dark Knight Returns and not buying it.  I've always regretted the decision.

Because it was a whole 3-6 months later that I bought a trade paperback of the comic that changed everything for me.  And I could have read that comic much, much earlier.

Today that copy of Dark Knight Returns is in a sealed bag with a board.  It's worn from wear from the literally dozens of times its been read cover to cover, not counting the hundreds of times it was simply picked up and leafed through, nor the times it was handed off to friends (even as they were told: do not lose this, do not tear the pages, do not read it while eating, do not in any way harm this book) and, when I was making some early decisions about Jamie, she took it with her as assigned reading.

Flat out, I have most of the book memorized.  Like some people spent their middle-school years memorizing baseball stats or all the words to their favorite sci-fi movie, I (and a lot of you, I'd guess) were memorizing every caption and thought bubble in Miller's comic attributed to Batman.  I was a Batman nut.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Nobody has been killed more ways or for more reasons than Thomas and Martha Wayne

editor's note:  I had called this post something about "Batman: Court of Owls", but it's not really about that, so I went back to my original title.

Many months ago when I was thinking I'd probably continue to follow DC Comics in the wake of the Nu52, I made a decision to just read the collections of Batman comics rather than single issues.  Actually, I'd been doing that for a while as I found I really could stand to wait for the trades when it came to the often ill-paced thrills of a Batman mystery unfolding.

To that end, I am now reading the first Batman New52! trade, The Court of Owls.

Thanks to Adam West, I've been a Batman fan literally since before I could talk.   Like most kids, I was somewhat unaware of the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne as a motivating factor for Bruce until I started picking up Batman comics in middle school.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mr. Adam West

Happy Birthday to Mr. Adam West, most famous for his role in the 1966 movie and TV series, Batman. he was born this day in 1928.

Mr. West as Batman inspired me to my first word: "Batman", and fueled me with a deep desire to both do what's right and say ridiculous things in a completely earnest tone. I continue to enjoy the TV show, lo' these many years later.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Signal Watch Reads: Batman - Earth One

Let me get this out of the way:  I've always enjoyed the artwork of Gary Frank that's come through my buy pile, and here I felt like he somehow trumped his previous efforts and delivered the Gary Frankiest artwork that ever Gary Franked.  That's a compliment, y'all.  Beautiful illustrative linework, an ability to capture expressions that's somewhere approaching Maguire, a great sense of panel layout and page management...  In my book, this is just gorgeous work, including the inking and colorist work.  This level of quality is the sort of thing that can give a casual buyer at the book store a chance to seriously consider buying a comic even if that's not their usual thing.

I appreciate that DC seems to have tried very hard to up their game in the art department.  When you're putting a package together like this for a book store audience, and you need yet another take on the Batman origin story to sell inside comic shops, you might as well go crazy putting out terrific looking superhero art.

Unfortunately, the book isn't just about the art, and at some point you have to also tell a story.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Signal Re-Watch: Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Author's Note:  Spoiler's ahoy.  Proceed at your own risk.

So, today I teamed up with Jason, AmyD, The Admiral and Jamie and re-watched what appears to be the final installment in the Nolan-helmed Batman trilogy.

The first look at the movie was posted last week after I'd seen the movie with a different crew.

As has been the pattern with Nolan's movies since Memento (and what I tend to think is true of movies I don't just enjoy, but enjoy re-watching), once you know how it ends, it's a pleasure to re-watch the film and see how the moving pieces work together, and not just from a plotting perspective, as in a particular good espionage movie or thriller.  I've harped a lot on how Nolan has more or less used the Bat-movies as a chance to explore ideas of fear, justice, security & liberty - and it was worthwhile to take in a second viewing and watch the movie in a frame of mind more conducive to regarding what Nolan was doing and trying to say, and not just hanging on as a summer thriller unspooled and I did my best to keep up.

Of course, I don't have a score sheet that enables me to check Nolan's ideas off, and what you read here is based on nothing, really, but my own reading of the movies as a whole, so you'll have to bear with me.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

I'm considering this post a "first take" review.  I'm stating that now partially because I do plan to see the movie again in the theater (and likely many times in the future) and partially because I've already seen how this plays out for me trying to talk about a Nolan movie on the first go-round and pretending like I got everything.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) has a tremendous amount of territory to cover, and contains a terribly ambitious film that I think, did modern movies not get capped at 2.5 hours as a run-time, could easily have fleshed itself out a bit more and run an even 3 hours or longer.  The movie has the task of laying out it's own story, giving a conclusion that satisfactorily resolves character arcs and plot threads from prior films, and digging far deeper into the thematic elements of the prior movies.

From a content standpoint, of course it's a mishmash of the entire scope of this thing we call "Batman", with the movie seeming to borrow plot from a few different bat-sources, including Knightfall, Batman: The Cult, The Dark Knight Returns and from No Man's Land- stories from different Bat-eras and varying Bat-creators, and but all sharing central motifs of a lost city.  But, that said, Nolan has managed to very much craft a new story, making this final installment feel very much like a section or book within the book and less like an episode.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Signal Re-Watch: The Dark Knight (2008)

Friday evening pal JuanD brought over his dog, Levi, to join Jamie and I for our pre-Dark Knight Rises screening of The Dark Knight (2008).  I mention Juan not just because Juan is a terrific fellow, but because our post-screening discussion should really warrant him a co-writer credit on this post.

I'm not very fond of my original review of the movie from 2008, and was sharing with Juan how I was so rattled by the movie's very existence that it took a viewing or two more to begin to appreciate everything Nolan was trying to accomplish, and that, in many ways, the best way to watch these movies is to turn off everything I know about Batman (which is a lot, and runs near constantly as a background subroutine) and instead come at the film as if I weren't playing comics-fan-connect-the-dots.  At some point it may be more useful to start looking at the movie as employing archetypes to relate a fable of duality on an operatic scale.  Chaos vs. Order.  Liberty vs. Security.  Lies vs. Truth.  Personal Duty vs. Public Duty.

all that and a motorcycle that goes VROOOM!  VROOOOOOM!  VROOOOOOOOOOM!!!!

You can feel a great leap in the quality of the film from Batman Begins during the first scene of Dark Knight, and the decision to dump the studio backlot feel of the previous Gotham for the very real streets of Chicago shot in punchy, deep focus, free of the filters and mood enhancers that dominated the look of the first movie.  And it's that realism and stepping away from the comic page that seems to give the movie some it's immediacy and edge.  Gotham is Chicago in this film - lived in and real, not a set made to look dank.

Friday, July 20, 2012

On the events in Colorado at the screening of "The Dark Knight Rises"

You see the phrase "we are saddened" expressed by PR wings when a tragedy strikes.  We can read between the lines and know that in many cases, the employees of the company may well be saddened, but the need to create a quick press release that admits participation while denying culpability is at the core of the statement.

But today, I am actually and truly saddened by the events at the screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Auroroa, Colorado.  As of this writing, what information I have found states that 12 to 13 people are dead, and many more wounded.  A gunman took the opportunity presented by a darkened theater and a room full of people with their attention elsewhere, and he took it upon himself to unleash horror.  Words fail me.

I arrived at work in a Batman t-shirt today and had not checked the news aside from the weather report.  Jim, the manager at the coffee shop, is a former comic geek (and now a barista by day and a reservist soldier on the weekend.  Great guy.) asked me if I was wearing the shirt "because of Colorado".  And then he saw my blank stare.  "You haven't heard..."  And he explained what he knew to me.

I'm not buttoning up the sport shirt I'm wearing over the bat symbol.  Batman didn't kill these people.  And despite my misgivings about some of the messaging about Batman and taking the law into one's owns hands that I expressed yesterday, part of why I think I can continue to embrace Batman as symbol is that Batman is , at the end of the day, a statement of defiance against cruelty and terror.  I haven't seen the final installment of the trilogy, but I can say that in mining the Batman mythos of the past 70 years, what Christopher Nolan dug up was the ability of a man to confront fear and let it pass over him and through him and let it become nothing.  In Dark Knight, we saw what seeming chaos looks like as a man wants to watch the world burn, and the choices we can make, even supposedly the worst of us, in those moments where we're put to the test - whether we give in to fear - those moments matter for all of us.

So, I put on the shirt with a smile on my face when I got dressed today, but now I'm wearing the shirt in mourning.  And, if I'm allowed to use the word, in defiance.

Be prepared for American politics to go crazy today talking about how the other side made this possible.  But those are cowards seeking an opportunity.  Nobody made this crazy person pick up guns or smoke bombs.  This was a person looking for an excuse and an opportunity.  This is when we decide how we'll react, and how we choose to respond shows who we really are.

Today we should be looking to Colorado not for answers, nor for blame, but out of respect for the dead and wounded.  I am very truly saddened, and I am very truly sorry.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Prep for Dark Knight Rises: I May Love Batman, But It's a Complicated Thing

I love Batman.  I do.  Most importantly, Batman has always been with me, and Batman will be around in some form long after I'm worm food.  Whether the idea will endure like Arthurian legend or disappear like so many other pulp characters, I can't say.  I do occasionally imagine a future in which it's a bit of trivia where people find out that the stories of Batman and Superman originated in comic books, their roots in the pages of comics long since lost the way, say, Paul Bunyan's legend spread as part of an ad campaign.

But as I grow older, I move further and further from a place where the repetition of the stories in the comics has appeal and find myself in a place where the character works better for me in movies or in the occasional graphic novel or some such.  While the comics kind of make a joke about it and ask the reader to engage in willing suspension of disbelief, after reading Batman comics since the mid-80's, it's hard not to notice that whatever state Gotham is located in has done a simply terrible job of managing its prisons and mental health care, and that the people of the state seem to have an incredibly low bar for what they expect their politicians to do about the fact that a clown-faced killer routinely exits a supposedly high-security mental institution under his own recognizance.

somehow this movie did not feed my need for believability in my superhero franchise movie
There's the small matter of child endangerment that's hard enough to ignore on the first go-round, but by Robin #5 (2 of whom have been "killed"), one would expect Superman would take Batman aside and suggest he give the kid sidekick idea a rest for a while.

There's the whole "how has nobody figured out that Bruce Wayne is Batman" thing, especially once you add in the "youthful wards" that keep rotating through Wayne Manor, placing Man-Bat on the things that feel more likely to happen than Bruce to not be considered the Michael Jackson of the DC Universe.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Signal Re-Watch: Batman Begins (2005)

I do recall that when Batman Begins was released, it wasn't really an event.  I certainly didn't rush out to the theater to see it, and when I finally did catch it, the theater wasn't packed.  I believe the common mythology is that Batman Begins did fine at the box office, but nobody would mistake it for a spectacular game changer.  Then the movie hit home video and cable, and people sort of freaked out about the movie at that point.

Honestly, I remember a lot of people I worked with in Arizona asking me about the movie around Christmas when the DVD hit the market.

We're the franchise you need, not the franchise you deserve.  Or something.
In anticipation of Saturday's viewing of Dark Knight Rises, Jamie and I are re-watching the first two Chris Nolan helmed Bat-flicks.  If you'd like to join us Friday for Dark Knight, we'll be here with bells on.

The bottom line is that I think this movie is really a pretty darn good Batman movie, especially in 2005 when the last Bat-flick I had seen at the time was Batman and Robin.  However, I'd argue that once Nolan was able to cast off the shackles of WB studios and make a Batman movie without producer notes, their "help" casting the film, etc...  He made a movie that a whole lot of people liked better, and that stands up a bit more strongly upon review.