Friday, July 21, 2017

An Open Letter to David F Sandberg about "World's Mightiest Mortal"

David F. Sandberg is officially the director of the Captain Marvel movie.  Production is set to begin early in 2018. So, in this open letter to Mr Sandberg (and the powers-that-be at New Line Cinema), I will express my hopes for what could and should be the definitive cinematic Captain Marvel.

The very first thing Mr Sandberg should do is bring in Alex Ross to be the project's creative consultant, and perhaps also a producer. He is one of only a few contemporary comic book talents who really "gets" the World's Mightiest Mortal.  Just as Johnson's manager, Dany Garcia, is working hard to make sure the Black Adam character is perfect, it should be Alex Ross' privilege to do the same for the Captain Marvel character. The film should use Ross' version of Captain Marvel's uniform, but it should not be skintight spandex or muscle enhancing rubber. The model of Tom Tyler's costume from the serial should be used, where the top is more of a jacket, and the pants, while snug, are not actual tights. Need I say, no hoodie cape, please.  In addition, I would suggest artist Jerry Ordway be brought in to assist in creating the design for Fawcett City, with its unique blend of Art Deco elegance with Norman Rockwell Americana. The definitive film needs to have a good balance of fun and humor with action-adventure and drama and pathos. I would like to see the film use tilted ("Dutch") camera angles, much like celebrated film maker Orson Welles pioneered, to give it a unique look.

The film itself needs to stay away from the horribly failed Curse of Shazam reboot.  The movie should have its foundation on the works of Alex Ross, specifically Justice and Shazam: Power of Hope and the recent, and very successful Thuderworld Adventures by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart, as well as lifting the Billy Batson-Uncle Dudley relationship from Roy and Dann Thomas' Shazam The New Beginning.  The primary influence and tone should come from the Fawcett comics of the 1940s. When Otto Binder and C.C. Beck hit their stride, they produced some of the greatest superhero adventures of all time. Previous attempts at developing the movie over the past decade seemed married to the "Big with superpowers" concept.  This concept keeps the character trapped in a goofy, juvenile stereotype. Cap should not act like a 12 year old. He has the wisdom of Solomon, which should make him more mature and less headstrong than Billy. The movie could use such a Big concept in a subtle way, but to go over the top, as most recent comic book stories featuring Captain Marvel have, would be a critical mistake.  I encourage Mr Sandberg to bring in Henry Danger creator/producer/writer Dan Schneider to tweak and polish Henry Gayden's script. Schneider would be a natural to capture the whimsy and humor of the original Fawcett comics, and could give the tone of the script the youthful energy that helped make Spider-Man: Homecoming such a hit.

As in the Fawcett comics, Billy should be the star of the movie. Its his adventures we follow. Yet there still must be a lot of screen time and action sequences for Captain Marvel. I speculate the creators of Captain Marvel had the Old Testament book of Tobit in mind as a muse. In it, the mighty archangel Saint Raphael takes the form of a teen, Azariah, while among mortals. I suggest all Captain Marvel fans read this book. If you don't have a Bible with the deuterocanonical books, here is a link for Tobit .   Mary and Freddy should be supporting characters the film, but they should not get their powers until the sequels. Needless to say I do not want to see the three new52 kids, Darla, Pedro and Eugene, cluttering up the film. And despite some fans clamoring for it, I do not want to see Superman in anyway in this film.  This movie should stand on its own, much like Wonder Woman did. If there must be a cameo with an established DCEU character, Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman would be the most preferable and make the most sense. A completely outside of the box choice, Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn, would be as unique as the chemistry Harley and Billy share in the Injustice line of comic books.

The elephant in the living room needs to be addressed.  Captain Marvel's name. I am vehemently against the idea of renaming Captain Marvel with the wizard's name, Shazam. In a perfect world, the film makers will just call him Captain Marvel, as it should be, and let the chips fall where they may.  But I fear some backdoor politics may cause that name to be off limits. If that's the case, I would advocate for Captain Marvel to be nameless in the movie, just as the name Wonder Woman has never been spoken in either of the two movies featuring her. The end credits should credit the actor playing him as "World's Mightiest Mortal", and leave it at that. In fact, "World's Mightiest Mortal" should be the title of the movie. Another idea is to borrow a gag from Spider-Man Homecoming. In the final scene, a crowd of people surround Captain Marvel.  For the first time, they ask "who are you?"  He replies, "Captain Ma--" cut to black, end of movie.

Perhaps the most infamous Captain Marvel fan was/is Elvis Presley. The definitive Captain Marvel movie must have an Elvis soundtrack. Mr Sandberg has stated Guardians of the Galaxy is his inspiration for superhero movies.  It had a prominent soundtrack, and for the Captain Marvel movie to follow suit, Elvis performances need to be represented, if not dominate. "If I Can Dream" would be a perfect theme song. Many of his under appreciated 60s tracks would fit the film perfectly, like "Long Legged Girl" for Beautia, "What A Wonderful Life" for Billy, "That's Someone You'll Never Forget" for Billy's crush on Beautia, "Kiss Me Quick" for Beautia's longing for Captain Marvel, etc.  Perhaps Duane Eddy's hit instrumental "Shazam" could be incorporated into the score.

Casting suggestions:

Captain Marvel - Lou Ferrigno Jr
The son of TV's Incredible Hulk has the pedigree, the acting talent, and the looks to bring the character to life on the silver screen.
Alternate picks: Alan Ritchson, Wes Bentley, or Daniel Cudmore.

Billy Batson - Colin Critchley
This talented young actor would not only be perfect for Billy Batson, but in his recent film Legends of the Hidden Temple, he exclaims "Holy Moly", and in that instant, he became Billy Batson.

Shazam - Tim Allen
Playing Santa Claus was a great primer for the role of Shazam.  Allen would give the role a grandfatherly warmth and a slight off kilter humor that would make the character's limited screen time a gem.
Alternate picks: Michael Keaton, James CaanF Murray Abraham, James Woods, or Max von Sydow.
 
Dr Sivana - Jackie Earle Haley
This talented character actor would bring the Rightful Ruler of the Universe to life and be bad news for Captain Marvel.
Alternate pick: Michael D Cohen

Beautia - Virginia Gardner.

This bombshell-in-the-making would be perfect for the World's Sexiest Woman.
Alternate picks: Suki Waterhouse, Haley Bennett, Genevieve Morton, or Carla Sonre.

Uncle Dudley - his royal majesty Micky Dolenz .
This is my #1 casting pick! Dolenz is Dudley incarnate and would be a highlight of the movie and a real scene stealer. If nothing else, I want Dolenz cast as Dudley.

Mary Bromfield/Batson - Jade Pettyjohn.  
Although she's a couple years older than Colin Critchley, her range is as young as 13, and her personality would bring Mary to life.
Alternate choices: Breanna YdeReagan Strange, or  Saylor Bell.

Sterling Morris - Jon Voight.
This acting legend would be perfect to bring the owner of station WHIZ to life.
Alternate pick: Dan Aykroyd.

Mr Tawny - Jim Belushi.
I could really see Belushi in the role, whether it be him in extensive make up, or a CGI character based on Belushi's looks and mannerisms, with him doing the voice.  Just perfect.

Freddy Freeman - Levi Miller
 
A talented young actor who can bring the darker, more serious counterpart to Billy to life on the silver screen.

Freddy's Grandpa - Alan Alda.
This TV legend is sure to bring gravitas and likability to the character, and really set the audience up for heartbreak when the inevitable happens.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Hollywood Reporter confirms World's Mightiest Mortal rumors

The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed David Sandberg is the director of World's Mightiest Mortal and that filming will begin in January or February 2018 with "a likely release in 2019".  Also noted is Peter Safran, teh producer of the upcoming Aquaman movie, and Sandberg's Annabelle sequel, is in negotiations to produce World's Mightiest Mortal.  It looks like we may have a Captain Marvel in the next few months.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Review: Batman '66 meets the Legion of Superheroes

After the bad taste left by Batman '66 meets Wonder Woman '77, one would think it is great news to bring in Mike and Lee Allred, who produced the single best issue of the regular run of Batman '66 - its final issue. But it is kind of perplexing that the Legion of Superheroes were chosen to co-star.  I have to consider, was it supposed to be based on the Legends of the Superheroes TV specials, which would make more sense, and somehow, a misunderstanding resulted with the Legion of Superheroes instead?  The story opens with the Legion coming from the future to recruit the world's greatest teen superhero, Robin, to help them on capturing a villain, Universo, who time traveled to 1966.  Meanwhile Egghead discovers the Legion's time ships.  Batman goes with some of the Legion to the future to capture Egghead, while Robin leads the rest of the Legion in 1966 to capture Universo.  Hmm... Egghead and Universo sure look alike. In the future, Batman encounters a lot of classic silver age Legion scenarios, while in 1966, its alluded to the Legion may have come to an alternate timeline than the one they intended to go to.  Batman's team catches up to Egghead, who quickly comes back to 1966, where Universo has hypnotized Gotham's leadership. They realize Universo is Egghead's descendant and decide to team up.  Robin and his team try to save City Hall, and Batman and his team arrive back to help out. The artwork is absolute perfection, but the script reads more like a tribute to the Legion of Superheroes, with a real silver age feel, that guest stars Batman and Robin. While it is a definite step up from the previous Wonder Woman '77 debacle, if the rumors are true that this will be the final Batman '66 project, it ends on a wrong note. The franchise should end with a spotlight on Batman and Robin, not on the Legion. Hopefully there will be more Batman '66 projects after a brief hiatus to rethink the many flaws of the execution of the franchise. Hopefully Andy Fish will be brought in to create some of the new Batman '66 projects. This issue earns a B-.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

World's Mightiest Mortal gets production time line

Just days after fan-favorite Captain Marvel candidate Derek Theler was cast as Mr Immortal in the upcoming TV series New Warriors, taking him out of the running for the role, several sources are announcing that World's Mightiest Mortal will begin production in February 2018.  These sources are assuming David Sandberg, who was the most recent name linked to the project, will direct despite no formal announcement he has signed on. What has been confirmed is Dwayne Johnson will not have any significant role, other than perhaps a teaser cameo, in the movie.  His Black Adam will only be featured in the solo movie of the same name, which as of yet, does not have any kind of production time table (and if Johnson is serious about running for president, may not have time to make the movie at all before he must suspend all film making activities to run).

This may signal that, in a departure from the recent Shazam reboots in the comics, where Captain Marvel and Black Adam are intrinsically linked, the film may go back to the original Fawcett source material, where Black Adam was not a pivotal role in Captain Marvel's origin.  It is also important to point out the reports say "production" will begin... not "filming". So I expect a director to be unveiled in the coming months as well as an announcement that a script has been approved, and for the casting process to begin in February.  Actual filming may being in Summer or early Fall of 2018. With an estimated 3 or 4 month shooting schedule, and then a similar amount of time needed for editing and post-production, I can't see them making the targeted April 2019 release date.  Even Summer 2019 would be cutting it close.  I expect the release date to change to sometime in 2020, which coincidentally, would be Captain Marvel's 80th Anniversary.

Monday, July 10, 2017

And another one out of the running?

Today, The Hollywood Reporter unveiled the cast for the upcoming MCU TV series New Warriors.  Derek Theler has been cast as Mister Immortal.  This severely reduces that odds he could be cast as Captain Marvel in the World's Mightiest Mortal movie, and subjectively could be seen as a crippling blow to the casting process and to the movie. Theler was one of my top picks for the role, and while I'm happy for him that he landed a superhero role, which is something he has wanted for years, it is kind of a sad day for Captain Marvel fans.  New Line Cinema, Seven Bucks, and DC really dropped the ball on this.  Dwayne Johnson signed on to play Black Adam three years ago.  Since then, Theler, as well as Lou Ferrigno Jr and Alan Ritchson, publicly expressed interest in the project through social media.  One of them could have been locked into the role a year ago, but we are still empty handed, with Theler now moving on to New Warriors.  To make matters even worse, several weeks ago Dwayne Johnson put forth Armie Hammer as the leading contender, whom I think is all wrong for the role.  One small glimmer of hope is Hammer is giving the impression he is not interested in the Shazam project, and is leaning more toward Green Lantern, although he claims he is currently not in negotiations for either project. At this moment, it is hard not to be very discouraged about the status of the movie.  An earlier post of mine going through most of the potential actors for the role can be found here, and as you can read, many have been picked off for other projects since I first posted it.

Friday, July 7, 2017

movie review: SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

To start with the bottom line, Spider-Man: Homecoming is the best Spider-Man movie since Spider-Man II.  It is right up there with Captain America: The Winter Soldier as one of the best MCU movies to date. Like the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, it can be accurately described as an action-comedy.  Director Jon Watts wisely skips doing another retelling of Spidey's origin, which made the lackluster The Amazing Spider-Man feel like a rerun. On the contrary, this movie feels very fresh, and keeps much of the Sam Raimi tone and feel.  It can be considered a direct sequel to the first Avengers movie, as well as a follow up to Captain America: Civil War.

The film opens on Adrian Toomes eight years ago, just after the events in the first Avengers movie. Toomes' company has been hired to clear the wreckage, but is quickly shut out by Stark Industries who takes over.  Toomes decides to keep some of the alien tech and devises a plan to build and sell weapons. Skip to eight years later, and we see the events featuring Spidey from Captain America: Civil War, but from Spidey's viewpoint. Skip to a few months later, and Spidey is being your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, cleaning up his neighborhood of crime while waiting to be called in for the next Avengers mission while also trying to juggle duties and responsibilities at school. As Toomes' weapons business grows, things escalate.  Unlike the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield versions, there is a pivotal scene where Spidey needs to literally hold a sinking ferry together to keep it from sinking.  In similar scenes, the Maguire and Garfield versions would have triumphed, but in this version, Spidey is failing and needs to be bailed out by Iron Man.  It is a scene that proves this take on Spider-Man is just a kid sometimes in over his head. To teach Peter a lesson, Stark takes back the tech heavy suit.

Peter then concentrates on his normal life, becoming more concerned with scoring a date with Liz to homecoming, but the Vulture continues to complicate things.  Later, during the big final fight between Spidey and the Vulture, the alien tech Toomes made his wings from is going to explode.  Spidey tries to save Toomes, and when it explodes and Toomes is engulfed in fire, what does Spidey do?  Does he say something morally ambiguous like "I won't kill you, but I don't have to save you"? Does he break Toomes' neck, killing him? Does he stab him multiple times until he's dead?  No, Spidey runs into the fire and saves Toomes' life.  This is the action of a true superhero.

There are also some more blatant potshots at the DCEU, such as Parker's friend and sidekick Ned saying how he wants to be the "guy in the chair", a reference to CW TV show characters like Cisco (The Flash) and Felicity (Arrow), and the Stark designed tech heavy Spider suit going into an attack and kill mode, and into an intimidation mode, which allows Peter to speak in an over the top gravelly voice spoofing Christian Bale's Batman. Unlike Wonder Woman's amateurish CGI, the CGI in Homecoming is first rate and stellar.

Tom Holland is truly amazing as Peter Parker, and brings youth and energy and humor to the role. Although, for all the hype the film makers have made about setting the film in Queens, NY, Holland, who is British, does not speak with a Queens accent, instead using a generic, mid-Western non-accent. Actually, none of the previous Spidey actors really spoke with any kind of New York accent.  His costume is faithful to the early Steve Ditko artwork, and we for the first time ever outside of the comics, we get to see the webbing under Spidey's arms. Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark mentors Peter, assisted by Happy Hogan (Jon Favereau, who gets more screen time than Stark despite how the trailers made it look), and there is a cameo by Chris Evans as Captain America, wearing his old costume from the first Avengers movie (but not "The First Avenger"), in a series of cheesy PSA's that were intended to be several years old and outdated.

Jacob Batalon does a good job as Ned, seeing how the film makers probably didn't want to reboot Harry Osborne again, but I thought his role could have been just a bit smaller. Tony Revolori's Flash Thompson re-envisions the character as an intellectual bully. Disney Channel actress Zendaya plays Peter's classmate Michelle, in a typically over-acted Disney Channel sit-com style, that thankfully isn't too big, but hints at a larger presence in upcoming movies (indeed, there seems to be some "bait and switch" regarding character names).  A much better performance is given by Laura Harrier as Peter's crush Liz, and perhaps the best of Peter's classmates is Angourie Rice as Betty Brant.

Michael Keaton turns in perhaps the best performance of a villain in an MCU movie.  With the exception of Loki, the MCU villains are mostly lackluster and seem like afterthoughts. Keaton shatters that mold, giving Toomes relatability, sympathy, and a cold as ice evil streak. The one big mistake was he didn't say the line "Pussy! Batman would never cry!".  Although to be fair, I think this is the first Spider-Man movie where Peter doesn't cry.  But those who hated Spider-Man III, be warned, Peter does try to dance in this one. Aunt May played by Marissa Tomei (who does have a natural NY accent), is probably the character altered the most from the comics. There is a running gag that has everyone hitting on her.  Unbelievably, this is the third Spider-Man movie in a row with no sign of J Jonah Jameson. A big plus is the classic Spider-Man cartoon theme song was revived. After the two awful Andrew Garfield misfires, it's great to see Spider-Man be amazing again.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Review: Batman '66 meets Wonder Woman '77 #6

The mercifully final issue of this rather disappointing series begins with Ra's in the Batcave, having a heart to heart talk with Bruce, trying to convince him to join the League of Shadows.  Meanwhile, Nightwing, Wonder Woman and Catwoman disco-fights their way out of Talia's trap (yes, it's a horrid as it sounds).  They call on "Batwoman" to lend a hand to invade the League's hide out, the former Arkham Asylum. But then, Batman shows up, in a Smokey and the Bandit era Trans Am customized as the Batmobile. He quickly explains he's been inspired again, and the five heroes enter Arkham, only to meet the members of the League- Mr Freeze, Clayface, Croc, The Cheetah and the criminally underused Riddler. There's another big fight, as Ra's and Talia attempt to escape.  Batman encounters Ra's at another pit, while the other three heroes continue to fight off villains and henchmen.  Batman and Ra's nearly fall into the Pit, but Wonder Woman rescues with her lasso. Ra's slips from Batman grip and falls into the pit, which reverts him... to a kid.  The story ends with Wonder Woman hinting at forming the JLA with Batman.  As with the previous issue, this is an average issue if you consider it a generic all-ages Batman story, but as a Batman '66 installment, it is a complete failure.  I'm not sure who to place the blame for this.  Is it a corporate DC mandate to force the 66 Universe to conform to generic DC continuity, or is it all Jeff Parker's idea since it is usually only the stories he writes that has this? This issue earns an F, and this entire miniseries should be retconned out. DC needs to bring in Andy Fish to get the Batman '66 franchise back on the right track.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Batman Episode Guide: An Adam West Tribute

With the passing of Adam West, I thought I would post some thoughts and comments on all the episodes of the Batman TV series, with a 5 star rating system (five stars being the best, no stars the worst). So, "put your gum under your seat, and get ready to cheer Batman!"

"Hi Diddle Riddle/Smack in the Middle" ***** The pilot, loosely based on the comic book story "The Remarkable Ruse of The Riddler" from BATMAN #171, May 1965, published just a couple months before the pilot began filming. The best episode. To the critics who understandably say "if you've seen one episode of Batman, you've seen 'em all", this is the "one" episode to watch. The whole first season seems more on the side of pop art than camp. Frank Gorshin excels as The Riddler and puts Jim Carrey and Corey Michael Smith to shame. Well paced story with some suspense. The pilot has wonderful punny dialog that subsequent episodes never matched. The one negative from a serious fan's perspective is undoubtedly the "Batusi" scene, even thought it achieved iconic status. A terrific episode, and a definitive '60s pop art experience. Jill St. John as Molly, is one of few characters to die in the series. Notice Robin's cloth gloves instead of the leather ones he would wear in the rest of the series. Batman's cowl design is slightly different, and in my opinion, better, than the rest of the series, and a slightly better utility belt. Batman is more of an outsider in this episode, as he would be forced to remove his mask in court.  Later episodes ignore this, and not only have Batman in court, but make him pure "establishment" by letting him sub for the district attorney. The original premise allegedly called for a grimmer Batman, who allowed Molly to fall to her death.  DC rejected the idea and it was shot with Batman desperately trying to save Molly. The image of Jill St. John in a Robin costume undoubtedly was Frank Miller's inspiration for Carrie Kelley in "Dark Knight Returns".  While many TV loyalists make a big deal out of Adam West's comedic portrayal of Batman, Burt Ward playing Molly impersonating Robin is just as brilliant as any of West's bits.


"Fine Feathered Finks/The Penguin's a Jinx" **** Above average Pengy episode with excellent cliffhanger bridging the two parts. This episode is the only one where Batman is constantly referred to as "The Batman", thanks to Burgess Meredith, who is perfectly cast as the Penguin. Upon re-watching the series, I was surprised by how often the phrase "The Batman" was used throughout the run, although never more repeatedly than in this episode. Based on "Partners in Plunder" from BATMAN #169, February 1965.

"The Joker is Wild/Batman is Riled" ***** Great Joker episode, based upon "The Joker's Utility Belt" from BATMAN #73, October 1952. The Joker seems almost deadly in this one. Nancy Kovack as "Queenie" is the most luscious babe ever to appear in the series. Eat your heart out, Harley Quinn!  Incidentally, Queenie appeared in "The Riddle of the Missing Card", featuring the Joker, from BATMAN #5, Spring 1941.  Some scenes have Batman's emblem properly placed on his chest (instead of his belly) for the only time in the series' run. The Joker breaking into TV broadcasts is a faithful adaption of him breaking into radio broadcasts from BATMAN #1.  The gimmick was also used in Steve Englehart's celebrated pop art inspired Batman serial in DETECTIVE COMICS in 1978, in 1989's Batman movie, and 2008's The Dark Knight.  Joker's opera mask was also used in The Dark Knight.

"Instant Freeze/Rats Like Cheese" *****  George Sanders' grim portrayal of Mr Freeze elevates this episode to near-drama. Freeze racks up a sizable casualty count in this episode. Obviously inspired the Animated Series' Emmy winning episode "Heart of Ice".  Sanders leaves Schwarzenegger's performance of Freeze in the cold.  Freeze was originally called Mr. Zero in the comics until the TV series renamed him.

"Zelda the Great/A Death Worse Than Fate" ***** Kids usually hated this episode...no fights. Adults see it as one of the best episodes and least campy. The mafia hit men who accidentally shoot each other are the final two people to die in the series. Based upon "Batman's Inescapable Doom-Trap!" from DETECTIVE #346, December 1965, showing how quick Lorenzo Semple, Jr was able to turn it into a TV script for an episode that would air just a few months later.  In the comic book, Zelda was a male magician named Carnado.

"A Riddle a Day Keeps the Riddler Away/When the Rat's Away the Mice Will Play" **** Riddler episodes are always worth watching, even though I feel this one is the weakest of the four season one Riddler episodes. Around this time, Frank Gorshin released a 45 RPM single written and arranged by Mel Torme entitled "The Riddler". Gorshin performed the song with maniacal delight, with Torme's witty lyrics perfectly capturing the best essence of the series. Its a shame Gorshin never worked a performance of the tune into an episode, as it really would have kicked the Riddler's insanity to new heights. On the other hand, Adam West's single, "Miranda", a catchy tune by itself, would have been a disaster if it was performed on the show. However, West did perform it at live appearances as Batman in the '60s.

"The Thirteenth Hat/Batman Stands Pat" *** Slightly above average episode that introduces Jervis Tetch, The Mad Hatter. This episode combines elements from "The Mad Hatter of Gotham City" (Detective #230, April 1956) and "The New Crimes of The Mad Hatter" (BATMAN # 161, February 1964).

"The Joker Goes to School/He Meets His Match, the Grisly Ghoul" ***** Best Joker episode also gives Burt Ward a chance to shine as Dick Grayson. The action at school is great, and its a shame no other episode dealt with this part of Dick's life. Lorenzo Semple, Jr., the show's script consultant, gives Joker a backstory for those who look for it: when Batman shows Joker's mug shot to the kids, Joker is wearing a normal suit, and there is a reference that he is "a master of disguise" leading one to believe this version of the Joker wears clown makeup as a disguise (similar to the version in The Dark Knight) opposed to the comic book and Jack Nicholson versions who were discolored by chemicals.

"True or False Face/Holy Rat Race" **** Another above average episode.  This one features the eerie False Face. Contrary to popular belief, False Face was neither a made for TV villain, nor a replacement for Two-Face, as this episode is based on "The Menace of False Face" from BATMAN #113, February 1958.

"The Purrfect Crime/Better Luck Next Time" ***** The first season's only Catwoman episode is clearly the best. Classic episode that plays well. The closing walls with spikes was a repeat of the same deathtrap from a chapter of the 1943 Batman serial. In the script, for the scene where Robin is holding one of the cat statues, Batman was to say, "Watch it, Robin! Don't keep your face so close to that pussy!"  West and Ward kept cracking up and ruining takes, so the director cut the line. Needless to say, had they completed a usable take, it never would have went past the censors. This episode is memorialized for being used on the GAF View Master set.

"The Penguin Goes Straight/Not Yet He Ain't" *****  Superb episode. The scene where the police get into a gunfight with the Duo is a classic, as is Pengy stealing the Batmobile, and Meredith's hilarious ad libbed one liners as Batman controls it from the Batcycle (which is its first appearance and is different than the one used in the movie and subsequent episodes).

"Ring of Wax/Give 'em the Axe" ***** Another great Riddler episode. Robin's attempt to fight Riddler's goons solo is a good scene.

"Joker Trumps an Ace/Batman sets the Pace" ** Average Joker episode with some plot holes big enough to drive that disappearing van through. Based upon "A Hairpin, A Hoe, A Hacksaw, A Hole in the Ground" from BATMAN #53, June 1949.


"The Curse of Tut/The Pharaoh's in a Rut" **** Victor Buono's Tut is the funniest of all Bat-villains. First villain created specifically for the show. Great cliffhanger. Olan Soule, who plays a TV anchor in this episode, would go on to be the voice of Batman (with Casey Kasem as Robin) on Saturday morning cartoons for nearly twenty years.

 "The Bookworm Turns/While Gotham City Burns" *** Weak villain, average episode. Scene with Batman and Robin trapped in the giant book as the police department try to save them is well done and suspenseful. Roddy McDowall (Bookworm) went on to play Mad Hatter in the Animated Series with much better results.

"Death in Slow Motion/The Riddler's False Notion" **** Still another great Riddler episode, this time based on a comic book tale with the Joker ("Joker's Comedy Capers" from DETECTIVE # 341, July 1965) . The show really lost a lot of its steam when Frank Gorshin sat out the second season.

"Fine Finny Fiends/Batman Makes the Scene" ** The first season's finale is its weakest episode. It's the sign of things to come in season two as the show leaves behind good pop art in favor of bad, repetitive camp.

Batman (the movie, aka "Batman vs. The United Underworld" and "Batman vs The Fearsome Foursome") ***** Bigger and better than the average episode...less campy with more of a James Bond feel, especially in the excellent Bruce Wayne scenes. Great deathtraps and a wonderful teaming of Joker, Riddler, Penguin and Catwoman. Lee Meriwether may be a better Catwoman than Julie Newmar with her catlike moans that Newmar never did, and her more adult chemistry with West in contrast to Newmar. Pengy assumes leader role, and his sanity is questioned by the other three. Ironically, Joker seems the most sane of the four, although in all honesty, his role is little more than a glorified henchman. Good suspense and action. Unlike the series, the movie has a prominent death count. It's the series' final high point. All the sets were expanded and embellished for the movie, the Batcave seems bigger and more defined, as does Gordon's office.

"Shoot a Crooked Arrow/Walk the Straight and Narrow" (no stars) Second season premiere is a waste. Terrible episode, Art Carney as a worthless villain (in the comic books, Archer was a Superman villain). The show has moved into pure camp/comedy.

"Hot off the Griddle/The Cat and the Fiddle" *** Fun second season Catwoman episode, despite overly goofy death trap cliffhanger. Another second season blunder - they buttoned the capes to Batman and Robin's backs. The romance between Batman and Catwoman is the most original and unique love story in comic books, and the second season Catwoman episodes portray it very well in the pop art context.

"The Minstrel's Shakedown/Barbecued Batman" * Another awful episode, but with a better than average plot--too bad the villain isn't good enough to make the plot work.

"The Spell of Tut/Tut's Case is Shut" *** Funny Tut episode. Unique in that it is a direct sequel to the previous Tut episode and references events from it.

"The Greatest Mother of Them All/Ma Barker" *** First decent episode of the season not to use a returning villain. Great cliffhanger. The simple ones work the best. Tisha Sterling as Legs is a babe to watch.

"Clock King's Crazy Crimes/Clock King Gets Crowned" *  Despite being written by Bill Finger (Batman's co-creator), the episode is a dud. Best scene is Batman and Robin getting burgers at a drive-in.  In the comic books, Clock King was originally a Green Arrow villain, and has since been revamped into an interesting Bat-villain on the Animated Series.

"An Egg Grows in Gotham/The Yegg Foes in Gotham" ** Weak episode, interesting plot. Besides Tut, Vincent Price's Egghead is the only other made-for-TV villain to have some success, although Egghead was based on the comic book villain Barney "Brainy" Barrows from "The Mental Giant of Gotham City" (DETECTIVE #217, March 1955).  Surprisingly, the recent BATMAN '66 comic book series did not take the logical step of revealing Egghead's real name as Barney Barrows. Adam West is hilarious in both the laughing gas scene and giving the Indian greeting to Edward Everett Horton.

"The Devil's Fingers/The Dead Ringers" **** One of the better episodes of the season, and Batman's highest rated episode ever. Liberace is great in a dual role, and Aunt Harriet actually has a decent part and is important to the plot! Harry and Chandell's molls are hot femme fatales. The tag at the end of the episode is a classic.

"Hizzonner the Penguin/Dizzonner the Penguin" ** Weak Pengy episode that was used in part to plot Batman Returns. This episode is over populated with cameos, including ex-Stooge Joe Besser (Adam West costarred with Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Curly-Joe DeRita in The Outlaws Is Coming). This episode is the epitome of everything that went wrong in season two.

"Green Ice/Deep Freeze" *** Otto Preminger made an unlikable Freeze, but actually, you're not supposed to like the villains. His visual look inspired both the Animated Series' Freeze and Schwarzenegger's character. Look closely -- Burt Ward has a bandaged arm during this episode. Miss Iceland is hot.

"Impractical Joker/The Joker's Provokers" * Awful episode with worst gimmick this side of Riddler's "TV box" from Batman Forever, and the dehydrator from the series' movie. Still, Alan Napier's dual role is fun, and this episode hints at The Joker having a previous career as a stage magician and hypnotist.

"Marsha Queen of Diamonds/Marsha's Scheme of Diamonds" * Dumb episode. Not only did the scripts go down in quality, but the writers couldn't even come up with clever titles anymore!

"Come Back Shame/It's How You Play the Game" *** Slightly better second season episode, but that's still not saying much.

"The Penguin's Nest/The Bird's Last Jest" ***** At Last! A great second season episode! Perhaps due to the fact it was the first episode filmed for season two while they still had their season one mojo, but was withheld for later in the season. One of Pengy's best. Great cliffhanger, and lots of fun. Grace Gaynor as Chickadee is yet another very hot babe in the series' femme fatales. Based on "The Penguin's Nest" (BATMAN #36, August 1946).


"The Cat's Meow/The Bat's Kow Tow" (no stars) Awful Catwoman episode featuring pop singers Chad and Jeremy. Stanley Ralph Ross, who replaced Lorenzo Semple as main writer, seems to strive for slapstick situation comedy more in tune with the Marx Brothers than Batman, but Charles Hoffman and Stanford Sherman wrote the worst scripts.

"The Puzzles are Coming/The Duo is Slumming" (no stars) Yes, they are slumming indeed. Another worthless episode with a pathetic villain. Puzzler was actually a Superman villain in the comic books. This was originally supposed to be a Riddler episode titled "A Penny For Your Riddles/They're Worth A Lot More" but I doubt even Frank Gorshin could have saved this one.

"The Sandman Cometh/The Catwoman Goeth" * Reportedly, the producers knew the series had been sinking to sad lows, and Adam West supposedly complained that the show was getting off track. Evident is that during the upcoming Summer they would only rerun a handful of second season episodes, and instead choose to rerun most of the first season episodes. So the producers hired Ellis St. Joseph to write this "phenomenal" script that was to return the series to its first season glory by going back to pop art adventure and leaving behind the sit-com camp it had settled into. But a higher power decreed that they needed another Catwoman episode (never mind that Julie Newmar was already dominating the season episode count), so this Sandman script was rewritten, and according to St. Joseph, ruined, stating his "masterpiece" ended up being one of the worst shows of the series.

"The Contaminated Cowl/The Mad Hatter Runs Afoul" * They brought Mad Hatter back for this? The whole contaminated pink cowl bit pushes things too far. Like the  previous Mad Hatter episode, this one combines elements from "The Mad Hatter of Gotham City" (Detective #230, April 1956) and "The New Crimes of The Mad Hatter" (BATMAN # 161, February 1964).

"The Zodiac Crimes/The Joker's Hard Times/The Penguin Declines" ** Dopey three part episode. Originally, there were plans to do a second movie. A horror script was being written, but was dropped when, according to Adam West, it started to read too much like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.  The producers began plotting a story that would team up King Tut, Egghead, and a new villain created for the movie (a character similar to the Animated Series' Roxy Rocket) , but the whole concept of a movie was scrapped when they started getting the bad press for the second season. It has become an urban legend that this three part episode was edited together and released it as a feature in foreign markets, but I have never come across any evidence, such as a foreign movie poster, to support this claim. The teaming of Joker and Penguin deserved something more special than this tripe, but the fight in the Bat Cave is a classic.

"That Darn Catwoman/Scat Darn Catwoman" **** A good and fun Catwoman episode. The "evil Robin" scenes are classic. The character of Pussycat may have inspired Frank Miller's Holly in Batman Year One. Adds to the Bat-Cat relationship. Listen for "Ibn Kerab" which is Arabic for "son of a bitch". Continuity wise, this episode should have been the season two finale.

"Penguin is a Girl's Best Friend/Penguin Sets a Trend/Penguin's Disastrous End" * Weak three part episode.

"Batman's Anniversary/A Riddling Controversy" *** John Astin makes a low-key Riddler, and ironically, the Animated Series' Riddler likewise echos Astin's self-loving take on the character, and his question mark cane.  Based on The Riddler from DETECTIVE # 140, October 1948 and Batman's Deadly Birthday from BATMAN #130, March 1960. If Frank Gorshin played the Riddler in this episode, it would have been one of the second season's best.  Even with Astin in the role, it's a good second season episode.

"The Joker's Last Laugh/The Joker's Epitaph" *** One of the better second season Joker episodes, but Cesar Romero's portrayal of the character gets more childish with each episode. The Joker-mobile in this episode appeared in the Elvis Presley movie Easy Come Easy Go. This is the final episode to be written by Lorenzo Semple Jr.

"Catwoman Goes to College/Batman Displays His Knowledge" ** Yet another goofy but fun Catwoman episode, but the last few minutes are great in the Batman-Catwoman relationship.

"A Piece of the Action/Batman's Satisfaction" *** The inclusion of Green Hornet and Kato are the only reason to watch this episode, a last ditch effort to save The Green Hornet from being cancelled after one season. One can only wonder what it would have been like had Batman and Robin went on The Green Hornet, and had to be serious and dramatic.

"King Tut's Coup/Batman's Waterloo" *** Typical King Tut slapstick episode written by Stanley Ralph Ross who was really in his element with this character. Lee Meriwether returns, this time playing heiress Lisa Carson.

"Black Widow Strikes Again/Caught in the Spider's Den" * Yeah, another waste with a performance by Tallulah Bankhead who was nearly on her deathbed.  Black Widow was inspired by the Scarlet Widow, a villain on the Superman radio show, who also inspired the Spider Lady, the villain of the 1948 "Superman" movie serial.

"Pop Goes The Joker/Flop Goes The Joker" *** Another good second season Joker episode. This one spoofs the entire pop art craze that spawned the series. Partly inspired the Joker's Flugleheim rampage in 1989's Batman with much better effect. A classic scene with Joker going up and down the bat-poles.

"Ice Spy/The Duo Defy" * Second season finale. Eli Wallach is the third Freeze in as many episodes, and just a pale imitation of what has gone on before.

Batgirl screen test ** Based on "The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl" from DETECTIVE #359, January 1967.  The villain, Killer Moth, is a joke. Batgirl's mask is different than in the series. There is also sexual tension between Batman and Batgirl that never went into the series. Originally, Batman and Batgirl were to be two separate shows, a la Man From UNCLE and Girl From UNCLE. Bad ratings made ABC tell Fox to put Batgirl on Batman instead. The producers were instrumental in creating this new version of Batgirl, who was Commissioner Gordon's daughter. In the comics up to this point, Batgirl was Betty Kane, the niece of Kathy "Batwoman" Kane.

"Enter Batgirl, Exit Penguin" ** With only a half hour per week now, Batman takes on a bit of a soap opera feel, connecting the episodes, even though most of these "tags" more times than not, contradict the following episode's plot. Also, the sets are pathetic card-board cut-outs, like a high school play or a sketch comedy show like Carol Burnett, giving Batman a weird, surreal look. Batgirl tends to steal the spotlight away from Batman and Robin, who are now portrayed as buffoonish Keystone Kops, a far cry from the first season. Ultimately, the third season comes across like a low budget Saturday morning show. It can also be said the show moves from camp comedy to outright parody.

"Ring Around The Ridd1er" ** Not even the return of Frank Gorshin could save the show by this point! In case anyone didn't noticed, Aunt Harriet is gone.

"Wail of The Siren" ** Not even Joan Collins in a skimpy outfit could save the show by this point! Robin exhibits a vigilante attitude, threatening to let Siren fall to her death. The series could have used more of this kind of edge for both Batman and Robin. The Batgirl theme song has the most pathetic lyrics of any superhero theme.

"Sport of Penguins/Horse of Another Color" (no stars) Not even Burgess Meredith could save the show by this point! Pengy must be senile. In almost all of his episodes, he encounters Alfred, yet he never remembers the butler!

"The Unkindest Tut of All" *** Not even Victor Buono could save the... wait, actually, Buono might have been the one who could have saved the show, if he did more than two episodes in the third season. If nothing else, his episodes are outright funny.

"Louie the Lilac" * Not even Mr. Television, Uncle Miltie Berle could save the show by this point! A good example of how the third season became preoccupied with being topical, which further hurt it. Berle does get some points for going against type and the third season in general, and playing his role for drama rather than camp or parody, even though it makes his character stick out like a sore (green) thumb.

"The Ogg and I/How to Hatch a Dinosaur" (no stars) Why bother?

"Surf's up! Joker's Under!" * If seeing Batman and Joker wearing baggies over their costumes and shooting the curl is your bag, you'll love this bitchin' episode, dude! The rest of us will put our heads in a gas oven. Sivi Aberg as Undine is the only reason to watch this episode (she also played one of Chandell's molls in season two).

"Londinum Larcenies/The Foggiest Notion/The Bloody Tower" ** Worthless 3 part episode that could have been filmed on location in England had the budget not been non-existent, but it still would have been a bad episode, even though it looks like they were at least trying on this one.  Some of the Finishing School girls are hot, though.

"Catwoman's Dressed to Kill" * Dopey Catwoman episode with a new Catwoman. Perhaps due to Eartha Kitt's race or due to the fact the producers were trying to push Bruce and Barbara as a couple (most likely a little of both), the Batman-Catwoman relationship is absent, even though it's crucial to their characters.
 

"The Ogg Couple" (no stars) No difference between this and the previous Egghead-Olga episodes, which were actually supposed to be another three parter.
 

"Louie's Lethal Lilac Time"Another bad episode. This one fills time by showing stock footage from previous episodes.

"Funny Feline Felonies/The Joke's On Catwoman" *** One of the better 3rd season episodes. Dopey but fun.

"Nora Clavicle"
** A good premise that, if done properly, could have been a great episode. Of course, it wasn't.

"Penguin's Clean Sweep" (no stars) Another bad episode.


"The Great Escape/The Great Train Robbery" *** Finally, a very good episode. Shame's henchman Fred is one of the funniest characters ever to be in the series. If nothing else, a very funny episode.

"I'll Be A Mummy's Uncle" *** A great Tut episode. Some suspense and funny comedy. The whole "drilling to the Bat Cave" bit is great.

"The Joker's Flying Saucer" (no stars) Just when you thought we were on a roll.


"The Enticing Dr. Cassandra" ** A decent episode. Some laughs. The teaming up of all the principal villains, albeit played by the stunt people, give this episode a bigger feel, and probably would have been appropriate to be the series finale instead of the next episode. Notice "Catwoman" is based on Julie Newmar again.


"Minerva, Mayhem, and Millionaires" (no stars) The series finale...a pathetic end to the show. Reportedly, ABC was willing to renew the show for a fourth season, but demanded the budget be cut even more by eliminating Chief O'Hara and Robin, and have Batgirl as Batman's full time partner (a move the Animated Series would do in its later years). Regardless, both Dozier and West vetoed ABC's ideas, and the show was terminated. Ironically, weeks later, NBC, The Man From UNCLE's network and the motivation for ABC to pick up Batman in the first place three years earlier, offered to take the show for a fourth season and even restore it to the twice-a-week format, or possibly a once a week one hour format. However, the sets had been dismantled and NBC didn't want to spend the cash to rebuild. so the deal fell through.


Legends of the Superheroes: "The Challenge" *** Ten years later, in 1978, NBC got its chance to bring Batman back, with the Justice League in tow. Essentially a live action version of Hanna-Barbera's Challenge of the Super Friends (HB also produced these specials). Adam West, Burt Ward, and Frank Gorshin return to reprise their roles, and are joined by former Dead End Kid Gabe Dell as Mordru,  comedian Jeff Altman as Weather Wizard, among others bringing to life for the first time The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman and Black Canary.  Andy Griffith Show veteran Howard Morris (Ernest T. Bass) brings Dr Sivana to life for the first time. Played as a comedy, with a laugh track no less, and produced on video tape, it's still better than the average third season episode.  Plus it's one of the only times I get to see my all time favorite superheroes, Batman and Captain Marvel, together in one adventure, plus my favorite villain, Gorshin's Riddler. I wonder if Jackson Bostwick or John Davey, both of whom played Captain Marvel in the Filmation TV series of a few years earlier, were asked to return before casting Garrett Craig as the World's Mightiest Mortal. This very well may have inspired Keith Giffen's Justice League International comic books of the 1980s.

Legends of the Superheroes: "The Roast" ** Instead of an adventure for the second special, we get a celebrity roast hosted by Ed McMahon, complete with a musical number finale. Ruth Buzzi brings Captain Marvel villain Aunt Minerva to life for the first time in this episode's highlight. Unfortunately, Frank Gorshin doesn't appear in this one. The writers really did their comic book homework for all the references and histories. A step down from "The Challenge" but still fun.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Adam West, R.I.P.

The elder statesman of the Batman legacy, Adam West, has passed away at the age of 88 after a short battle with leukemia on June 9, 2017. West, whose real name was William West Anderson, started out in show business as a local TV and radio personality in Hawaii. After making the move to Hollywood, he was cast in several Western movies and TV shows, most notably co-starring with The Three Stooges in The Outlaws Is Coming.

Appearing as the James Bond inspired Captain Q in a commercial for Nestle's Quik brought him to the attention of producer William Dozier, who cast him as Batman. A national frenzy of Batmania ensued, but due to weakening scripts in the second season and slashed production values in the third, the star turned ended quickly. Incredibly, he turned down an offer from producer Albert Broccoli to play James Bond in the 007 franchise.  West spent the next couple decades attempting to move beyond the Batman character, most notably in a featured role in the Burt Reynolds movie Hooper, but the big break comeback eluded him, and West always seemed to end up going back to the Batman character, in either personal appearances in the car show circuit, or via voice work in cartoons like Filmation's The New Adventures of Batman and Hanna-Barbera's Super Friends. The apex of this era were the two TV comedy specials Legends of the Superheroes, which were the very first live action version of the Justice League.

In recent years, West has seen a second act in popularity, with notable roles in productions such as Family Guy, The George Lopez Show, and others. And there was one last return to Batman, voicing the character in Batman 66: Return of the Caped Crusaders and its upcoming sequel, the tentatively titled Batman 66 vs Two-Face.


Former Catwoman Julie Newmar made the statement: “Stellar, exemplar, a king to the end.  He was bright, witty and fun to work with. I will miss him in the physical world and savor him always in the world of imagination and creativity. He meant so much to people. A friend said: ‘The father that we wanted.’ That is a great gift, no matter how you live it.”

And West's long time partner in crime-fighting, Burt Ward, who played Robin, stated: “I am devastated at the loss of one my very dearest friends. Adam and I had a special friendship for more than 50 years. We shared some of the most fun times of our lives together. Our families have deep love and respect for each other. This is a terribly unexpected loss of my lifelong friend. I will forever miss him. There are several fine actors who have portrayed Batman in films. In my eyes, there was only one real Batman that is and always will be Adam West. He was truly the Bright Knight.”


Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, let perpetual light shine upon him, may he rest in peace. 


Friday, June 2, 2017

movie review: WONDER WOMAN

The DC Extended Universe finally gets one right, and it took a Wonder Woman to get it done.

The original Wonder Woman comics were set during World War II, but the decision was made to set the cinematic version in World War I. Perhaps because this year is the 100th anniversary of America entering the "war to end all wars", or more cynically, so that the film wouldn't be identical to Captain America: The First Avenger. But if the latter is the case, why was Wonder Woman given a shield, which she traditionally never had in the comics? Incidentally, by setting the film during WWI, the DCEU establishes Wonder Woman as the first superhero of this continuity, and the center of superherodom. This is what Captain America is in both the Marvel comics and cinematic continuities, and what Superman is in most versions of DC comics continuity (the main exceptions being the post-Crisis continuity where the Justice Society related heroes were established in the 1930s and 40s, while Superman became the first of the second generation of heroes, and in the current New52/Rebirth continuity where it is established both Batman and the Hal Jordan Green Lantern went into action prior to Superman).

In any event, director Patty Jenkins uses the template established by Richard Donner in Superman, and perfected by Sam Raimi in Spider-Man.   Act I is Paradise Island, and sets up Diana's back story.  We see her as a little girl, who is quite the war monger, seeing it as all adventure and excitement. Queen Hippolyta tries to discourage Diana's interest in battle, but one of the other amazons, Antiope, begins training her in secret.  Hippolyta tells Diana she was sculpted from clay and brought to life (the traditional origin story), but here it seems presented as a fairy tale for a child, and sure enough, subsequent dialogue between the Queen and Antiope reveal Diana is not what she seems.  In all honesty, this opening part of the film drags a bit.  It's a necessary sequence, but it lacks something.  

Things pick up in Act II which has Steve Trevor, played with charm and humor by Chris Pine, crashing onto Paradise Island, followed by pursuing Germans, which result in the film's first battle scene. Steve makes a connection with Diana, and tells the amazons about the World War going on outside the confides of their hidden island. Diana desperately wants to go fight the bad guys, but her mother forbids it, eventually giving in and letting her daughter go. The banter between Steve and Diana is one of the film's highlights.

Things pick up even more in Act III, which is Steve and Diana arriving in London to fight in the war, giving Diana some fish-out-of-water moments. By setting the film during WWI, there is a chance to give this part of the film a steampunk look, although I don't think Jenkins fully realized the visual potential.  It is nice to see a classic character like Etta Candy brought into the proceedings. We see Diana and Steve's adventures ranging from attending an armistice meeting, to liberating a small village behind German lines, to the climatic battle where Steve gives the ultimate sacrifice.



Gal Gadot returns to the role of Diana Prince which she first portrayed in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where she was the one of the few bright spots, and that film's MVP, portraying Wonder Woman as a strong and silent mystery woman. In this outing, Gal's acting is somewhat limited, but effective. To her credit, she has nothing as cringe worthy as Ben Affleck's unintentionally hilarious screaming of "MARTHA!!!".  Here, she portrays Diana as naive, and ever so slightly dim-witted in a very endearing way. If there were a "best smile and/or pout in a motion picture" category at the Oscars, Gadot would win by a mile. As Diana experiences wartime battles throughout the film, Gadot conveys losing the love for war Diana has held since a child, when war was more of a fantasy for her than reality. In the action scenes, she struts through the battlefield as if it were a runway.

Chris Pine's Steve Trevor is the glue that holds this movie together. In many ways, he becomes the focus of the film, while Diana becomes more of a device. The heart of the film could be a flip flop of the old saying "behind every great man is a great woman" to "behind Wonder Woman is a noble and heroic man".

Surprisingly, there are no cameos from any other superheroes, although Bruce Wayne is referenced in the modern day bookends to the film.

Of note is that this is the second movie where Wonder Woman appears, yet the name "Wonder Woman" has not been uttered in any dialogue. There is now no excuse for Captain Marvel to be renamed Shazam in his upcoming movie. If DC is irrationally fearful of using the name Captain Marvel, then no name should be used, and the actor can be credited as playing the role of "World's Mightiest Mortal", which should also be the title of the film.

What hurts this movie a bit is that there is no real major villain.  Dr Poison is relegated to laboratories for most of the film, while General Ludendorf is more or less a generic military bad guy.  Only at the end does Aries show his face, little more than a MacGuffin for the film's action finale. Likewise, the film suffers from some poorly done, primitive looking CGI.

The DCEU seems on the verge to be a woman dominated franchise, as Wonder Woman joins Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn as the two best portrayed and realized characters in the DCEU movies.

Wonder Woman is the best of the four released DCEU franchise movies, although it doesn't quite stand up to the real superhero classics like Donner's Superman, Tim Burton's two Batman movies, Sam Raimi's first two Spider-Man movies, or Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. Wonder Woman is equal to the best of the MCU offerings, with the possible exception of the excellent Captain America: The Winter Soldier.   Many fans are elated with this, but considering where the DCEU could have and should have been at this point, is it really something to celebrate, or another reason to be discouraged and frustrated with the DCEU?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review: Batman '66 meets Wonder Woman '77 #5

This issue time jumps to 1977, and opens with Wonder Woman thwarting a heist by Killer Croc. It's revealed Barbara Gordon has replaced her father as Police Commissioner, and Chief O'Hara's never-before-mentioned daughter replaced him as Police Chief. The three women of law and order discover a clue that the League of Shadows may be back.   Wonder Woman asks Barbara to summon Batman, to which she replies Batman retired and Robin has taken his place ....as Nightwing.  OK, stop.  If you go back, since the beginning, I specifically asked DC not to have the 66 Robin become Nightwing. Unfortunately, I saw it coming with Jeff Parker's obsession to graft modern generic DC continuity onto the 66 Universe, the Nightwing thing was inevitable. But actually seeing it, it removes all uniqueness from the 66 Universe. This is no longer the 66 universe, it's just another kid-friendly remake of the standard generic DC continuity. As such, with this issue, the Batman '66 franchise is officially an utter failure. Canonically, this just doesn't work because of the 1979 Legends of the Superheroes specials, where Bruce is still active as Batman and Dick is Robin two years after this part of the miniseries takes place.  To continue with the review, Wonder Woman enters Bruce's study at Wayne Manor, where he is brooding over a photo of his father, which again, is out of step with the 66 Batman.  Bruce has graying temples... which Adam West did not have in 1977.  Anyway, Bruce and Diana embrace and go to the Batcave, where he explains The Joker became more deadly, discovered Batman's identity, invaded Wayne Manor, where Alfred died of a heart attack, and Bruce killed the Joker, thereby retiring as Batman. Diana tries to talk him into becoming Batman again, but he tells her to work with Nightwing. She meets up with Dick, who apparently has teamed up with a reformed Catwoman. The three brainstorm on figuring out Ra's plan at the disco Catwoman owns, while Bruce in the Batcave gives in to the urge, and also deduces the plan.  Once they have figured out Ra's is looking for the location of three Lazarus Pits, Talia emerges to kill Catwoman while Ras' emerges in the Batcave to kill Bruce. In all honesty, if this issue were a standard, generic continuity Batman story, it would be average.  But as a Batman '66 story, it betrays too much of its source material, and is a failure. This issue earns an F.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Review: Batman '66 meets Wonder Woman '77 #4

Issue 4 begins with Ra's emerging from the Lazarus Pit, witnessed by Batman, Robin, Catwoman and Wonder Woman.  Ra's shadow warriors attack the heroes in a fight scene that is much grimmer and darker than anything seen on either of the Batman or Wonder Woman TV series, and is off base.  Again, it's writer Jeff Parker's irritating trademark of forcing the 66 Universe to conform to generic modern DC continuity.  As Batman and Ra's sword fight, Talia, wanting to spare Batman's life, whom she knows is Bruce, uses knock out gas to render the quixotic quartet unconscious.  Ra's puts the heroes into quicksand, but it's Wonder Girl (Diana's kid sister Drusilla) to the rescue and Talia quickly frees Batman, Robin and Catwoman from the quicksand.  Wonder Woman flies out on her own power and helps Wonder Girl retaliate at Ra's.  He swims to the boat to escape, but Batman plays Green Arrow, forcing Ra's to dive back into the water.  Amazons arrive and search for Ra's in the ocean.  Then Batman unmasks revealing his true identity to Wonder Woman.  Robin and Wonder Girl batusi as Batman, Wonder Woman and Catwoman feast. The Amazons announce they did not find Ra's, but Talia is sitting in a locked cell.  As Batman and Robin are about to leave Paradise Island, Catwoman announces she is not going with them.  She asked for and was granted asylum from a patriarchal society. Batman asks Wonder Woman to return with him, but she decides to stay in Paradise Island. The story seemingly ends here, except the next issue blurb announces we will see Batman and Robin in the 1970s.  Parker and Marc Andreyko turn in another bizarre script that is all over the place, but has a few good moments. David Hahn turns in a solid, if somewhat generic art job. This issue earns a C+

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Review: The Three Stooges April Fools' Day Special

The latest issue of American Mythology's rather randomly scheduled Three Stooges comics features only one new story and one reprint.  The new story, "The Brothers Dim", has the boys reeking havoc at a Renaissance fair.  The Stooges believe they have actually gone back in time. The script by S.A. Check is average, but its the art by Brendan and Brian Fraim, who turn in another excellent job, that saves the story.  The reprint, "The Duped Deputies", from the August 1961 issue of The Three Stooges, like all the other reprints in this current series, has weaker and crude artwork, but actually a stronger script than the new story.  The boys are gunslingers in an old west town, and get deputized to stop a bank robbery. All in all, this issue earns a B. It is rumored this is the final issue.  Hopefully that is not the case and there will be more issues published sometime in the near future.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Review: Batman '66 meets Wonder Woman '77 #3

This issue starts with Batman, Robin and Catwoman flying to Paradise Island.  Even though Catwoman III (Eartha Kitt) was featured in issue 1, it is Julie Newmar's Catwoman that appears here with no apparent explanation. Catwoman is being brought along because men visiting Paradise Island need a woman chaperone.  Wonder Woman, in her invisible jet (even though last issue had her flying on her own power) meets the Batplane in the air to guide them in.  The next few pages are the Dynamic Duo and Catwoman getting a guided tour of Paradise Island.  On second look, David Hahn's art is so vague, this might actually be the Lee Meriwether Catwoman. Batman informs Wonder Woman of the stolen book, and she laments she should never have left Man's world. They get a report of an attack and the four head off in a small sailboat. The sail has the modern Wonder Woman emblem on it, a tiresome Jeff Parker trademark of forcing the 66 Universe to conform to modern, generic DC continuity.  Upon hitting land, Batman makes a reference to Catwoman being set up in issue 1.  So wait, this is all the same Catwoman?  I'm getting confused. They enter a maze only to find a mythological griffin.  Meanwhile, on the other side of the maze Talia and a feeble Ra's al Ghul are entering.  Wonder Woman fights the griffin, as Robin and Catwoman meet a cyclops. Wonder Woman uses the "speaking to animals" power from the previous issue to tame the griffin.  She then rescues Robin from the cyclops as Batman rides the flying griffin.  Things are getting very trippy, as red hearts float around Robin's head whenever he looks at Wonder Woman. They get to the center of the maze, where Ra's enters the Lazurus Pit, and exits restored to health and strength.  Jeff Parker and Mark Andreyko turn in a bizarre script riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions. Likewise, David Hahn's art seems very rushed and is weaker than his usual efforts.  It is issues like this that make me wish DC would do the right thing and bring in Andy Fish onto the Batman 66 franchise. This issue earns a C-.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Review: Batman '66 meets Wonder Woman '77 #2

This issue picks up where the last left off, back in the 1940s, with Ra's trying to strong-arm the "Lost World of the Ancients" books from young Bruce. Ra's is able to get one of the books, as Wonder Woman and Talia search for Bruce and Ra's. Ra's meets up with Wonder Woman, and she fights some of his goons.  Then she flies off to find Bruce.  Wait... Wonder Woman didn't fly in the TV series, unless it was in the invisible plane. Ra's and Talia take off, and a Nazi captures Bruce.  He breaks free and falls into a cave, in what amounts to just a remake of Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins. Wonder Woman fights off the Nazis holding the Waynes hostage, as several bats from the cave fly into the house and "tell" Wonder Woman where Bruce is.  She flies off to get him.  It's revealed the book Catwoman III stole for Talia contains the location to Paradise Island. Back in the present (or 1966... or more precisely 1968, since this whole franchise seems to follow the 3rd season episodes) Batman and Robin prepare to head to Paradise Island to warn Wonder Woman.  A slightly above average script by Jeff Parker and Marc Andreyko, where the Parker trademark of forcing generic, modern DC aspects into the 1966 Universe include the mentioned Batman Begins riff, and Wonder Woman having the ability to fly, predictably mar what could have been a better story. David Hahn's art is also a bit on the generic side in regards to actor likenesses, but otherwise well done. This issue earns a B-.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Do we have a director... and for which film?

Collider is reporting that David F. Sandberg is in talks with New Line and Seven Bucks to helm one of the Shazam movies.  It is unclear if he will direct Black Adam or World's Mightiest Mortal. Considering Brad Peyton was a lock for Black Adam, it is very likely Sandberg may direct the Captain Marvel movie.  If so, it seems probable World's Mightiest Mortal and Black Adam will be released a few months apart.  On the other hand, Sandberg seems more natural for the Black Adam film, so maybe he's edging Peyton out in the negotiations. Once verified, we can expect casting announcements to start coming at a fast pace.  This is what we've been waiting for... unless of course the project derailed again, which considering its history, is not out of the question.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Black Adam Bombshell

On January 19, 2017, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news of what went on during those meetings between Dwayne Johnson, Seven Bucks Productions, and DC:  Black Adam will get his own solo movie, which will have priority over the Captain Marvel movie. It is speculated Beau Flynn has jumped on as a producer and Johnson's recurring collaborator Brad Peyton will be announced to direct the film from a reworked and rewritten version of Darren Lemke's script.  I knew it was time to worry when it was revealed Geoff Johns was in on the meeting. Black Adam is sure to go on to be a major player in the DCEU, as Johnson has often hinted at Black Adam's arc going from slave to superhero to villain to anti-hero.  Things started to solidify when Johnson's manager Dany Garcia made comments about insuring the Black Adam character be developed perfectly, and then a social media pic of Johnson with Garcia's other client, Henry Cavill, sharing a New Year's drink, sent the internet in a frenzy of a Superman-Black Adam showdown.

But what of Captain Marvel? It was announced Henry Gayden has taken over as script writer for the World's Mightiest Mortal movie, and that Black Adam will be mostly absent from the film, if he appears at all.  Optimistically, Sam Raimi may still be in play to direct, and Alex Ross brought on as creative consultant.  I'd like to see the neophyte Gayden teamed up with a seasoned writer, like perhaps Dan Schneider (Henry Danger).  This is a great development in that Dr Sivana (who was missing in the rejected John August script) and Beautia will be the main antagonists, with possibly an appearance by Ibac, who was Captain Marvel's evil counterpart in the original Fawcett comics rather than Black Adam.  And, of course, without Black Adam hogging the spotlight, the focus will surely be on Billy Batson and Captain Marvel, and we should have plenty of screen time to develop their characters properly. But pessimistically, and more realistically, the Captain Marvel movie may continue to hit roadblocks and be pushed back, until the decision is made that Black Adam can fill Captain Marvel's role in the bigger DCEU, and the Captain Marvel movie is finally and officially cancelled. I kind of see it going that way.  Considering how divisive and poorly the DCEU has performed to date, it may actually be a blessing in disguise that Captain Marvel sit it out. Besides, if Geoff Johns has any say, and it looks like he does, they would probably give us New 52 Shazam instead of Captain Marvel, and I really don't want to see that.  Stay tuned for the official announcements.