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.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Review: Batman '66 meets Wonder Woman '77 #1

The first issue of the latest Batman '66 miniseries sees the return of writer Jeff Parker and artist David Hahn, with new writer Marc Andreyko (from the Wonder Woman '77 comic book series), as Batman encounters the Lynda Carter version of Wonder Woman.  The story begins with Catwoman III hired by Talia and Ra's al Ghul to steal a book.  The Dynamic Duo apprehend Catwoman III, but Talia escapes with the book.  Batman and Alfred then recount for Robin how, some 20 years earlier during World War II, Bruce first encountered a younger Talia and her father during an auction in which that same book was present. Also at the auction were Col. Steve Trevor, Yeoman Diana Prince, and Etta Candy.  After Nazis crash the party and steal the book and its sister volume, Diana turns into Wonder Woman, witnessed by Bruce and Talia, and comes to the rescue.  Bruce is able to sneak the targeted books out to safety, only to find Talia's father is not one of the good guys.  The script is impressive in the way it works in the WWII era Wonder Woman from that show's first season, by the flashback to 20 years earlier.  As such, we get a good glimpse of a young Bruce Wayne, Adam West style.  At first, I felt including Ra's al Ghul and Talia was another attempt to force the 66 Universe into conforming into the standard, generic DC Batman (something Parker's scripts seem to have a lot of, in contrast to other writers in this franchise), but upon thinking about it, there really isn't any other villain that would work considering the 20 years of time sweeping this plot. The art is good, but on the generic side.  After Matthew Dow Smith's epic artwork with picture perfect likenesses in the previous miniseries, anything else is going to pale in comparison. There were some online reports that Ra's would be drawn in Christopher Lee's likeness, and Talia in Caroline Munro's likeness, but Hahn only gives the barest hint of that possibility, opposed to Dow Smith, who would have been far more definitive.  One thing in Hahn's favor is he gets the "comic book" style of action and motion better.  Dow Smith, for all his art's beauty, didn't quite nail that, perhaps being too slavish to the concept of live actors on a limited sound stage.  This first issue earns a B+.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

An Open Letter to Hiram Garcia about "World's Mightiest Mortal"

Over the last couple days, through social media, Hiram Garcia, a top executive at Seven Bucks Productions and a producer on the Captain Marvel movie, and Dwayne Johnson, co-founder of Seven Bucks, and actor to portray Black Adam, have hinted there will be major announcements coming in the next few weeks or months. So, as I have done in the past with my Shazam Manifesto posts, I will give one final push to Mr Garcia, Mr Johnson, and the powers-that-be, for my hopes for what could and should be the definitive cinematic Captain Marvel.

One of the things both Garcia and Johnson, as well as now-former New Line head Toby Emmerich have assured us is that the movie will have a tone unto itself, inspired by the classic Fawcett comics of fun and optimism.  Recent comments in the last couple days have reaffirmed that, and even hinted the fun and optimism will spread to the rest of the DCEU, exorcising  Zack Snyder's overtly morose and despaired vision. Could it be too much to hope that Captain Marvel could be at the very center, the heart and soul of a semi-rebooted DCEU?
The definitive film needs to have a good balance of fun and humor with action-adventure and drama and pathos.  Sam Raimi was a master of this with his Spider-Man movies, and a few months ago there were internet rumors he was one of the top choices to direct the film.  I hope those rumors are revealed to be true in the coming weeks or months. 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.

Of course, something else that needs to happen is for Alex Ross to be assigned to be the project's creative consultant, 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. 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 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 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, will be a failure.

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 many fans clamoring for it, I do not want to see Superman in anyway in this film.  If there must be a cameo with an established DCEU character, at least go with a less predicable and more creative and interesting choice like Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn, or even Ben Affleck's Batman.

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. We all know who he is, despite what Geoff Johns thinks. 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.

Perhaps the most infamous Captain Marvel fan was/is Elvis Presley. The definitive Captain Marvel movie must have an Elvis soundtrack. "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, other than Johnson as Black Adam:

Captain Marvel - Derek Theler.
This 6 foot 5 actor auditioned for Captain America, but lost out to Chris Evans. Currently on the sit-com Baby Daddy, Theler has shown charisma and screen presence, and has an innocent quality to him that would be perfect for Captain Marvel.  He could go toe to toe with a certain charismatic former pro-wrestler, and make the World's Mightiest Mortal relateable and likable.
Alternate pick:  Lou Ferrigno Jr.

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 - James Caan.
This Hollywood legend would give the role prestige and gravitas.
Alternate picks: F Murray Abraham, Max von Sydow, or Tony Shalhoub.

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: Haley Bennett or Genevieve Morton.

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 Yde or Reagan Strange

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.

UPDATE: Just one week after this post was published, it was announced Black Adam would get his own solo movie, and the character has effectively been removed from Captain Marvel's movie save for a possible small cameo.