Friday, June 27, 2014

First look at Tartakovsky's Popeye

The first image of director Genndy Tartakovsky's CGI Popeye movie has been released.  Allegedly this is a concept painting by Richard Daskas, and although Sony has begun using it to promote the project, it officially does not have a production green light yet, as Tartakovsky is still only making animation tests.
Regarding the movie, Tartakovsky has been quoted as saying,
"For me, it’s the original early ’36 to ’40 range of the Fleischer Popeye cartoons. I think since they were based out of New York, it was very different. I don’t want to say underground, but it was more racy, more edgy. And I think while everyone was warming up to Disney, Fleischer made huge marks in animation, with Popeye, Betty Boop and Superman. They were doing amazing stuff and for me it’s the exaggeration and the silliness, the laughter, the movement, the physical comedy. And that’s one thing I’m after for Popeye. It’s the whole reason I agreed to do the feature; I said 'If I’m going to do this, I want it ten times more physical and crazy than we did in Hotel Transylvania and ten times more character.' And [Sony] were like, 'Alright.' The funny thing is that CGI was designed to mimic reality, but I’m going to use this realistic tool in a completely different way."

Looking at the image, the figures appear to be much more fluid than the CGI Popeye's Voyage: The Quest For Pappy DVD from a few years ago.  Olive appears to be from her Famous Studios era.  Popeye looks to be in a white shirt and blue pants... perhaps a nod to the Robin Williams movie?  I can't seem to see his pipe.  I hope it's not eliminated for political correctness.  I think its very good that Tartakovsky is inspired by the Fleischer cartoons, and although it will be CGI, it will mimic traditional hand drawn cel animation in a way we have never seen yet with CGI.

Rumors have already begun circulating as to who will voice Popeye. Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler have been mentioned.  Sandler would be a total disaster, and I hope he is not cast as Popeye.  Carrey might be a good choice, as he was able to nail the beloved Jack Mercer voice many years ago on an In Loving Color sketch, although who knows if he can still deliver. If the studio feels they must get an established star, they might as well consider Robin Williams. Although not a star the caliber of Williams, Carrey, and Sandler, I would like to see Dave Coulier be considered for Popeye.  Back on Full House, he showed a great love for the character, and has perhaps come the closest to duplicating the Jack Mercer voice.  Maurice LaMarche, who voiced Popeye after Mercer's death in the short lived and awful Popeye and Son cartoon series, couldn't come as close as Coulier or Carrey to getting Popeye's voice right.  Billy West, who did the voice for the Popeye's Voyage DVD, sounded like LaMarche, but higher pitched, giving Popeye a chipmunk-like quality to his voice.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Review: Batman '66 #12

The first story in issue #12 features one of the dumbest villains of the TV series, Marsha Queen of Diamonds.  The first episode this character appeared in was neck and neck with the Archer episode as second worst episode of season two (the Black Widow episode being the worst), with one of the dumbest cliffhangers - Batman being forced to marry her.  Unbelievably, this character was not negated to a one shot villain, and was brought back in a second episode... a three-parter, no less, but was basically reduced to being The Penguin's moll.  With this issue, writer Jeff Parker has officially "jumped the shark".  While his work on this series has been mixed, this story cements his legacy as a Charles Hoffman-Stanford Sherman disciple. The plot deals with Marsha tunneling into the Batcave, stealing the Bat-diamond, and the Dynamic Duo recovering it. Batman does some good observational detective work early in the story, but otherwise its a big disappointment, from D-list villain Marsha successfully breaking into the Batcave and stealing the Bat-diamond, to Alfred using a Bat-pole to go up into Wayne Manor instead of using the service elevator, to Marsha's Aunt Hilda's dopey magic and potions.  Dario Brizuela contributes perhaps the worst artwork this book has seen.  He really goes overboard drawing Batman as a pot bellied, out of shape slob.

The second story is a breath of fresh air. Written by the team of Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani, who also wrote the prematurely canceled Johnny DC  Billy Batson & The Magic of Shazam title, they use the second season one-shot villain The Minstrel.  He breaks into Wayne Manor and steals the Shakespeare Bust as bait to lure the Dynamic Duo to him so he can use a sonic vibration emitter tuned to the exact frequency of the Batmobile to destroy them.  Unbeknownst to Minstrel, the bust is the key to the bookcase Bat-pole access, and he has unwittingly locked Batman and Robin out of the Batcave. While this could have been another disaster like the lead story, Art and Franco have two things on their side.  First, they make the villain a minor player in the story, focusing more on Batman and Robin (and like the lead story, early in they show Bruce using his detective skills).  Second, since they are locked out of the Batcave, Art and Franco have Bruce and Dick wear "prototype costumes".  Batman's is the one used in the screen tests for the TV show, while Robin's looks like the costumes worn in the two serials from the 1940s.  Such a nod to the characters' histories like that really elevates the story and makes it clever and special.  Ultimately they also use a prototype Batmobile (looking like a cross between a 1959 Eldorado and the classic 1940s-50s Batmobile of the comics... with Alfred driving no less, another nod to the serials) rendering Minstrel's machine useless.  The art by Ted Naifeh is better than Brizuela's, but a better artist, like Jonathan Case, Ty Templeton, Joelle Jones, Chris Sprouse, Christopher Jones, or Joe Quinones (all of whom drew previous stories) would have really made this story into a masterpiece.  I hope to see Art and Franco script more stories.  They would also be the perfect writers to bring the TV version of Captain Marvel into the 66 continuity, using the Legends of The Super Heroes TV specials as a common denominator linking the two series  (hint, hint DC).  The first story earns a D while the second story earns a B, averaging this issue's grade to a C.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Review: Batman '66 Meets The Green Hornet #1

The first issue of this mini series crossover event between DC and Dynamite sets the pace by following the format of the Batman TV series in a way that the regular Batman '66 title has avoided. Written by celebrities Ralph Garman and Kevin Smith (yes, that Kevin Smith), this issue unfolds like a typical TV episode, which gives this book a sort of "yes... finally!" moment that we never got from the regular monthly book.  But to be fair, I do think its wise for the regular series to stray away from the TV show's format, because the TV show itself quickly fell into a rut, a sense of a sameness to every episode.  Plus, when a story does use the show's format, it makes it a bigger event. The story starts with Dick preparing for a date with Mayor Linseed's niece (a continuity gaffe - not on Garman and Smith's part, but Jeff Parker's, as Batman '66 #11 features a different mayor, one who looks similar to the mayor from Batman Forever as played by George Wallace). A Bat-call summons Batman to protect a valuable fossil collection arriving in Gotham by train.  On the train, Bruce meets his childhood friend, Britt Ried and Kato. There are a couple out of character moments: one where Kato suggests the Green Hornet's masked accomplice should have his own code name (out of place for that Bruce Lee version of Kato, much more in line with the recent - and awful - Seth Rogan movie), and one where Bruce loses his temper over Britt's belittling of Batman (again, seems very out of place for the Adam West version of the character).  Suddenly, the train is stopped by a gummy, glue like substance covering the tracks.  Bruce, Britt and Kato investigate, as Bruce is able to contact Dick via cuff link radio, to end his date with Linseed's niece to meet him at the train.  A clever bit where Garman and Smith use Dick's alias "Dog George" from the episode The Joker Goes To School/He Meets His Match The Grisly Ghoul and also give Bruce a similar codename, "Bravo Whiskey".  Bruce checks the cargo, only to find Col Gumm, who is now permanently covered in glue from a lab accident, and goes by the name General Gumm, with his men attempting to steal the fossil collection.  He's thwarted by the arrival of the Green Hornet.  Meanwhile Robin flies up in the Batcopter, and in a clever moment reminiscent of the feature film, is able to give Bruce his Batman costume.  Eventually the four heroes get Gumm trapped atop the speeding train, but he uses his glue gun to stick the heroes to the train. Gumm and his men make off with the collection, as he uses a solvent on the tracks to get the train going again.  And to make matters worse, the train is speeding toward a low tunnel, sure to decapitate our heroes.

Garman and Smith seem to have upped the quality a notch from Jeff Parker on the regular series. I appreciate what Garman and Smith did with the first half, expanding on the back story of Bruce and Britt as old friends.  Things pick up in the second half, but I wonder if 6 issues may be too long for a single story. It may have been wise to make it 3 or 4 issues.  We'll see how the remaining issues play out, and what Garman and Smith have planned. Ty Templeton's artwork is superb, and I wish he would get to draw more issues of the regular series.  This issue earns an A-.