Friday, November 17, 2017

movie review: JUSTICE LEAGUE

With the fate of the DC Cinematic Universe riding on it, Justice League is successful at being a better and more coherent movie than Batman v Superman, but still falls short of what one would expect to be the epic big screen debut of the All Star team of the World's Greatest Superheroes.  Of course, the problem is that Justice League has been dealt a handicap in that it continues the misfired shared universe sculpted by Zach Snyder, when really Warner Brothers should have abandoned that continuity as fast as they did the original Batman franchise after Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin disaster.  Instead they decided to forge ahead, albeit bringing in The Avengers director Joss Whedon to take over helming the film in mid-production.  Whedon works a minor miracle by salvaging what could have been another 3 hour Snyder Gloomapalooza.

The film opens with a kid's phone video of Superman. You can clearly see the bad CGI cover up to Henry Cavill's mustache, as his mouth looks like it had a bad reaction to a Novocain injection.  CGI appears to be DC's weak link, as Wonder Woman also suffered from bad, primitive looking CGI.  It doesn't get any better here, as Steppenwolf looks more like a video game image than an actual character, and there are too many moments where the film seems to cease being a live action movie, and turns into The Polar Express.  Even Superman and Batman's flowing capes look fake.

After a pair of really good opening action sequences, one featuring Batman and the other Wonder Woman, the film suddenly grinds to a halt as it drags down for the next 20 minutes or so focusing on introducing Cyborg and The Flash. Things pick up as the plot kicks in - a simple one of Steppenwolf wanting to destroy earth, and Bruce and Diana, reminiscent of The Blues Brothers,  trying to "put the band back together" (I expected Diana to utter "we're on a mission from God"), to stop him. But even after that, the movie has a few dragging moments.  You would think with cutting a movie from 3 hours to 2 hours with much of it re-filmed by a different director, they could have kept the pace up better, but it's not to be. It is also of note that if all the slo-mo scenes in the film were at normal speed, the movie would probably clock in at an hour and 40 minutes.

Ben Affleck returns as Bruce Wayne and Batman.  He's not the serial killer he was in Batman v Superman, moving to more traditional take, and Affleck gives a decent performance, although in a couple scenes, he has this look on his face like he's thinking "I'm only doing this for some gambling money".  He's not the best screen Batman, but he's not the worst either.  A big missed opportunity is in the scene where Barry Allen asks Bruce what his super power is, and Bruce replies "I'm rich." That was fine for the trailer, but Whedon should have re-shot it for the film. A much better line would have been if he replied in a Keaton-esque growl "I'm Batman".  Jeremy Irons returns as Alfred, and matches the great performance he gave in BvS. J.K. Simmons is introduced as Commissioner Gordon, but I thought he struck out with the character, small as the role was.  He looked and acted like J. Jonah Jameson with a walrus mustache.

Gal Gadot, so far the MVP of the DCEU, also turns in a fine performance as Diana Prince, although I found her acting slightly more wooden here than in Wonder Woman. I also noticed that she kept giving this pouty smirk that kept reminding me of a Kewpie Doll, and there were a lot of up skirt shots of her - full disclosure, neither of which I minded.  The chemistry between Bruce and Diana was a high point of the movie.

Ezra Miller was introduced as Barry Allen and The Flash, in a costume that looks more Power Rangers than silver age comic book, and played the role like he was buzzed on some kind of amphetamine.  He had a couple funny lines, but for the most part I found him to be annoying, and by the middle of the movie, I was missing Grant Gustin's version a lot.

Ray Fisher plays Cyborg, and while I thought the early part of the movie devoted to his backstory dragged the film down, in the second half of the movie, he was instrumental to the plot.

Jason Momoa plays Aquaman in a performance that was part surfer-biker dude and part Batman The Brave and The Bold animated series-- though he stopped short of yelling "outrageous".

Amy Adams returns as Lois Lane in a small role.  There was no direct call back to the scene in BvS where the Flash travels back in time to tell Bruce she's the key.  Bruce just kind of knows she's the "big gun" to -SPOILER ALERT- bring the revived Superman back to his senses.  Henry Cavill, to his credit, after two other movies as Superman, finally shows some personality and charisma in the role.  This was Cavill's best performance as Superman. 

I also have to mention the musical score by Danny Elfman.  It is the best score in any of the DCEU films (and better than the scores in the Nolan Batman films), and it helps elevate the film.  Hearing refrains of his classic Batman theme and the classic John Williams Superman theme really drives this movie to be better than perhaps it really is. It would have been cool if Elfman worked in a reprise of the original Super Friends theme, but alas he did not.

There are -SPOILER ALERT- two post credit scenes, the second one at the very end of the credits brings back Superman's arch enemy and introduces a certain terminator.

Justice League is a fun movie that is enjoyable when it isn't being dragged down by slow moments or being distracted by inferior CGI. Like Affleck's Batman, its not the best, but its not the worst either.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Billy Batson is cast!

Today it was announced that Disney Channel actor Asher Angel has been cast as Billy Batson. It is somewhat surprising and kind of ironic an actor from the Disney organization has been tapped to play DC's Captain Marvel alter ego. In the last couple days, reports surfaced that 20 year old Grace Fulton is in negotiations to play an unnamed role heavily rumored to be Mary Batson, and Mark Strong is in negotiations to play Dr. Sivana.  Regarding the Mark Strong reports, I am somewhat discontent considering he is 6 foot 1 and if he is cast opposed to a more traditional pick like Jackie Earle Haley or Michael D. Cohen or even Joe Pesci or Martin Short, then it seems like further confirmation this will be a Curse of Shazam movie.  Stay tuned for more casting reports as they occur.

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Friday, November 3, 2017

movie review: THOR RAGNAROK

After the dismal Nolan-wannabe film Thor The Dark World , Thor Ragnarok is like the rebirth of the Joel Schumacher style of superhero movies. Director Taika Waititi not only channels Schumacher, but also Tim Story (despite the amount of hate his Fantastic Four movies get, they were the blueprint or prototype for the MCU), and even a bit of William Dozier.  With Ragnarok, camp is back and it is back with a bang. Such high camp, that Cate Blanchett, who plays Hela, and Jeff Goldblum, who plays the Grandmaster, could have very well stepped right out of a third season episode of Dozier's Batman TV series or Schumacher's Batman & Robin. But despite all this... or maybe because of it, Ragnorok is actually a very entertaining movie.  You could say it is the "Anti-Snyder" super hero movie.

Way back when the first Thor movie was released, lamenting that the filmmakers jettisoned the Dr Donald Blake aspect, and Thor's helmet, I said Thor's two biggest gimmicks were his hammer and helmet. Well, now they also got rid of his hammer, and shaved his head for good measure. But before the hammer goes bye-bye, there is one cool transformation reminiscent of the classic Blake into Thor transformation.

A cornerstone of the MCU movies is that they really are no longer solo movies, but all team ups to some extent, and here we have the Hulk essentially the co-star of Ragnarok, a nod to Thor's very first live action incarnation, in the TV special The Incredible Hulk Returns. Intentional or not, Hemsworth even briefly wears a helmet that looks just like the one worn by Eric Alan Kramer.


Like all recent superhero movies, the script tells a non-linear story that jumps all over the place and sometimes loses the viewer, but the entertainment factor here negates any flaws in the script. Basically, the plot deals with Thor's older sister Hela attempting to take over Asgard, while Thor and Loki end up trapped on Sakaar and have to deal with the Grandmaster and the hedonistic society he has set up. We find out where the Hulk has been since Avengers Age of Ultron, and we are introduced to Valkyrie, played wonderfully by Tessa Thompson.  They ultimately team up to go against the Grandmaster, then go after Hela.  There are also cameos by Doctor Strange and Black Widow. With better CGI than Schumacher or Story ever had, Waititi keeps the pace up and makes this warehouse rave of a movie consistent and avoids sluggish moments. Chris Hemsworth really shines as a comedic and campy Thor. The more comedic the character is, the more natural and engaging he is in the role, compared to his phoned-in performance for overly grim and serious The Dark World.  The lightning aura that emits from Thor could pose a problem for David F. Sandberg if he wants to do a similar effect with Captain Marvel, as he could be accused of copying.

Tom Hiddleson continues to make Loki walk a tightrope between hero and villain (I expect Dwayne Johnson to take a similar if more brutal route with Black Adam), and Mark Ruffalo returns as the Hulk and Bruce Banner. Also be on the lookout for a WTF cameo by Matt Damon. This is easily the most enjoyable of the Thor movies, but if you are someone who hated Schumacher's Batman movies or Story's Fantastic Four movies, you might have a hard time enjoying Ragnarok.




Saturday, October 28, 2017

Captain Marvel is cast!

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the role of Captain Marvel (or Shazam II, depending on who you ask) has been cast.  Zachary Levi won the role.  He is someone I never considered, and seems to be a choice out of left field. Such a casting strategy hit it big back in the 1980s when Michael Keaton was cast against type as The Batman, so hopefully this too will capture lightning in a bottle, if you pardon the expression.  According to Umberto Gonzalez, the other four finalists for the role were my top choice Derek Theler, plus Zane Holtz, Billy Magnussen, and Jake McDorman. We should be getting other casting news soon, and hopefully confirmation if this indeed will be a Captain Marvel movie, or a Curse of Shazam movie. David F. Sandberg has said on a couple occasions, of the two camps of fans, the classic Fawcett fans, and the Geoff Johns/Curse fans, one camp will be disappointed in the movie.

UPDATE:  Levi posted a statement where he calls the character Captain Marvel.


UPDATE: On October 31, 2018, it was announced Dwayne Johnson's Black Adam movie has hired comedy writer-producer Adam Sztykiel to pen the script, leading to speculation it will have a comedic tone, like Johnson's recent projects Baywatach, Jumanji, and Central Intelligence.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Andy Fish's Batman '66 prequel

As most of my readers know, I was somewhat critical of DC's Batman '66 series, in that I felt it followed too much in the footsteps of the awful third season, and did not try hard enough to capture the spirit of the excellent first season. I was also very vocal about DC getting comic book artist-writer Andy Fish, who is a 1966 Batman fan who sees the series much as I do in regards to what worked, and why it went off the tracks, to work on the comic book version. Well, so far, DC hasn't wised up yet, but Mr Fish is posting his own independent Batman '66 prequel, Sinister Sideshow of Dr Scorpio, which can be read on several platforms, including batmanbyandyfish.blogspot.com.

Set in 1964, Dick Grayson has just become Bruce Wayne's ward, and it looks like Batman is new to his crusade against crime.  One of the best surprises so far happens in episode 3, where it is revealed Captain Marvel is Gotham's pre-Batman protector.
Andy, who is also a superhero serial buff (and as an aside, also be sure to check out his serial inspired 1940s take on Batman, The Death Ray of Hugo Strange which can be read at the same website), has based this take on Captain Marvel on the 1941 serial, which explains how he is a bit older, and has been in action before Batman.  He appears to be drawn as a combination of Tom Tyler and Fred MacMurray.
I am looking forward to see how the relationship between Batman and Captain Marvel develops. I would like to see an actual DC comic book series with this premise. Considering how Inspector Basch was set up in the pilot episode to be a recurring character that never panned out, I am curious to see if Andy will give a backstory to that character. I can't wait to read more chapters and I urge all the readers of this blog to check it out.

Review: Three Stooges Halloween Stoogetacular

The latest in American Mythology's series of Three Stooges one-shots is the second with a Halloween theme.  It features two new stories and a reprint from the 1960s. The new stories are both written by S.A. Check and drawn by Brendan and Brian Fraim. The first story is a period piece set in the 1800s, and is more in the spirit of the classic two-reelers than the stories in some of the immediate previous issues. The boys are traveling peddlers trying to sell their new invention, a brush that cleans teeth, when they come across a Hammer Studios inspired Dr Frankenstein, and his creature, who looks a lot like Shemp. The second story is done in the style of the boys more experimental shorts, like Cuckoo on a Choo Choo and Gypped in the Penthouse where the Stooges are not a team.  This one also features Shemp in a much more substantial role.  The focus is on Larry's bizarre travels. I really like having Shemp making appearances in these stories.  Perhaps we can also get some appearances by Ted Healy and maybe even a Joe Besser cameo.  We don't need Joe DeRita, since he is featured in the reprints. Speaking of the reprints, the one in this issue is typical in that it has a very good script, but the art is on the crude side.  This issue earns an A-.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Billy Batson audition tapes

The Omega Underground website has posted some Billy Batson audition tapes. You can see them (potential script spoilers included) by clicking here.  Of a slight concern is that the script they are working from seems to have quite a bit of Curse of Shazam influence to it, with the reference to a council of wizards, and an allusion to the foster family.  But, it seems like the Billy Batson character is in line with the traditional version, and does not seem to be the jerk as seen in Curse. I am kind of hoping this is not the actual movie screenplay, but rather something tossed together culled from the rejected Bill Birch-Geoff Johns script just for the audition process, or if it is the current script, an early draft that has since been, or is the process of, being polished and tweaked.

Jeremy Michael Lanuti's Billy Batson audition
UPDATE: Just a few hours after being posted, the videos were locked with passwords. A tape of Parker Young reading for the role of Captain Marvel was also briefly available before being shut down with a password, although Heroic Gateway was able to copy a part of it.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Things just got interesting...

Just when it looked like Derek Theler was out of consideration for the role of Captain Marvel, due to his signing on to play Mr Immortal in the upcoming MCU TV series New Warriors, he has hinted at having an audition in a Snapchat post.
The lightning bolt symbol seems to indicate he may still be up for the role of Captain Marvel despite being signed on to a rival MCU production.  Perhaps he may be the first actor to simultaneously play characters in MCU and DCEU franchises.  Ironically, I believed that honor would most likely go to Dwayne Johnson, whom in addition to playing Black Adam, I was sure he would also sign on to play Namor the Sub-Mariner for the MCU.  But perhaps the failure of his Baywatch remake threw cold water on that idea.
Also of significance is Theler and David F. Sandberg have been liking each other's posts across Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, and Theler has begun to follow several key DCEU people.

And speaking of Sandberg, he has continued to post daily Instagram updates of the movie's progress in a way only he can.
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Of note is classic Captain Marvel beating the crap out of New52 Shazam.  Related to this is that New Line released a synopsis and a Billy Batson casting call that both use the name "Captain Marvel" (although some sources later said these releases are fake). Also you can see an Elvis cartoon on the wall, hopefully a sign negotiations are going on to have Elvis recordings on the film's soundtrack.  Yes, things are getting interesting.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Work officially begins on "World's Mightiest Mortal"

David F. Sandberg has humorously hinted on his Instagram page he has officially began working on World's Mightiest Mortal.
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And then added an update.
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Casting announcements may be imminent. So far, all we know is Dwayne Johnson's Black Adam will not appear (except for a possible cameo), Sandberg has shown signs he is more influenced by the classic version of Captain Marvel rather than the Curse of Shazam reboot, and has said he will cast two actors as Billy Batson and Captain Marvel, instead of casting only one, and using CGI trickery to create the other.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sandberg "leaks" script page

David F. Sandberg, the director of World's Mightiest Mortal gave fandom a treat by leaking a page of the screenplay.
Obviously it is a joke, but if you read between the lines, it can be interpreted as a symbolic "middle finger" to both the unpopular Curse of Shazam reboot of Captain Marvel, and to the nagging calls by certain fans to include Superman in the movie as Billy Batson's mentor. I really think we got the right guy for this movie.  I'm feeling very optimistic.

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. With Black Adam out of the picture, it may be a good idea to introduce Ibac for a central action sequence. In the Golden Age, it was Ibac, not Black Adam, who was Captain Marvel's evil counterpart. 

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: Derek Theler, 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: Tori Anderson, 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.

Ibac - Brett Azar 
With Dwayne Johnson's Black Adam benched from the film in favor of his own movie, Dr Sivana will need some muscle to go toe to toe with Captain Marvel.   Ibac is the perfect pick, because in the golden age, it was he who was the evil counterpart to Captain Marvel, while Black Adam was a one-shot character. Brett Azar is perfect for the role.

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.

Nick and Nora Bromfield - Jim Caviezel and Kristy Swanson
 This pair of fan favorite actors would give Mary's foster parents likability and depth.

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, the 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: The Three Stooges TV Time Special #1

The latest issue of American Mythology's series of Three Stooges one-shots, all #1's, features two new stories written by S.A. Check and art by Brendon and Brian Fraim.  The first story has the boys selling home made souvenirs, and deciding to take a vacation. There are references to Shemp, but he's referred to as Larry's cousin (rather than Moe and Curly's brother).  The second story has the boys as contestants on a modern style TV game show.  The art on both stories is excellent, and the scripts are very good, but I wish they would move on from the Farrelly Brothers' concept of putting the Stooges in trendy and modern situations, and get back to stories inspired by the classic and timeless two-reelers.  The book is rounded out with two one-page strips reprinted from the 1960s, and a couple Stooge related articles. This issue gets a B.

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 with Art Carney phoning in a mediocre portrayal as The Archer. The show has moved into pure camp/comedy. In the comic books, Archer was a Superman villain, and in fact, the first draft of the script includes a Superman cameo, most likely for Bob Holiday, who starred as the Man of Steel on Broadway during this time.

"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, a time controlling box, 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. This episode was a major rewrite of an unproduced script titled "Hickery Dickery Doc".

"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".  While Frank Gorshin and a better cast Rocket would have made this episode more watchable, it is still a weak second season script.

"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. Incidentally, in the first draft of the script, Poison Ivy is used instead of Pussycat. 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. and appears to rework the counterfeit money scheme and robot henchmen from an undeveloped Two-Face proposal titled "About Face for Two Face".

"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.