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Progressive Ruin presents…the End of Civilization.

§ July 31st, 2008 § Filed under End of Civilization Comments Off on Progressive Ruin presents…the End of Civilization.

Hey, as long as you’re not sick of ’em, I’ll keep doing ’em! It’s time once again to plow through the new Diamond Previews catalog and see what crimes against God and nature exist within…whip out your copy of the August 2008 volume and follow along, if you’ve got the guts. (Previous installments are, as always, linked in the sidebar.)

p. 121 – Watchmen Movie Rorschach Grappling Gun and Mask Prop Replica Set:

DC Direct’s Watchmen merch-a-gasm continues, with this troubling set. Now, the gun is “permanently attached to a display base,” to keep people from, I don’t know, waving it around at the frozen yogurt shop or something. But the mask…the mask is removable and, presumably, wearable, and, hopefully, not leading to any news stories similar to this one.

p. 201 – Archie Americana Volume 9 The Best of the ’90s TP:

They had enough to fill a book? Well, maybe it has those last few stories by Dan DeCarlo before he got the shaft and the boot.

p. 250 – Zen Intergalactic Ninja #0 99c Special:

“Zen returns completely re-imagined by superstar writer Joe Casey!” exclaims the ad copy, and re-imagined he certainly is, as the last time I checked, Zen was given a nose and a mouth! Surely Mr. Casey didn’t strip our favorite space-ninja of his facial orifices?

p. 303 – Presidential Material Barack Obama & John McCain:

I wonder if some other company will publish a Presidential Material: Ralph Nader comic to steal sales away from these titles?

(Hate mail in 3…2…)

p. p388 – Bat-Manga! The Secret History of Batman in Japan:

As someone who’s seen some vintage Japanese Batman stuff, usually courtesy my currently-dormant pal JP…I am reasonably certain this book will be filled with some weird-ass crap. You think you know bizarre Batman? Gird your loins, chum.

p. 423 – Doctor Doom Doomie t-shirt:

Just having a hard time picturing someone refer to Doom as “Doomie.” You know, to his face. Well, aside from the Thing…and maybe Spider-Man.

Yes, I know none of these people are real.

p. 426 – I’ve Never Had… Double-Sided Black T-Shirts:

Shirts with suggestive fronts, and drink recipes on the back. I designed my own shirt front, but may have missed the point slightly:

p. 426 – Star Wars Slippers:

Perhaps not as bizarre as these, but still…AAAAAAH! It’d be like having little green Mel Tormé heads on your tootsies.

p. 437 – Barbie Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds Doll:

I’m not sure what I can add to that picture. It’s Barbie…with black birds swarming her, threatening to peck out her perfect eyes and rip out her hair for their nests. This is both hysterical and absolutely terrifying and will never, ever know the touch of a child.

p. 438 – Godzilla Godzooky Plush:

Okay, for all you people who gave me grief over identifying a character as Godzooky who wasn’t Godzooky in the original version of this post: here you go. I now know the difference between the two characters. I am enlightened.

p. 442 – Buffy the Vampire Slayer Angel 1/1 Scale Puppet Replica:

Oh for God’s sake, it’s yet another permutation of the Angel Puppet, only this time “life”-sized and with a removable nose and working mouth and poseable arms and I have no idea if the previous puppets had any of these features but, geez, let’s give it a rest already.

If a “life”-sized Spike Puppet follows, I totally quit.

p. 464 – Jean Grey Black Queen Statue:

“So, Bob…”


“What’s…um, what’s with the statue of the dominatrix on your mantel?”

“That’s not a dominatrix…that’s Jean Grey!”

“‘Jean Grey.'”

“Yeah, you know, from the X-Men!”

“I don’t remember her like that from the movie.”

“Well, no, this was from the comics. See, she was brainwashed into joining the Hellfire Club…”

“The ‘Hellfire Club.'”

“Yeah, they’re like a group of villains, and they sorta made her join.”

“So the Hell Club made Jean Grey evil and she turned into a dominatrix.”

“Hellfire Club, and no, she’s not a domi…look, here are the comics. Just read these and it’ll explain everything.”

“Uh, who’s the dominatrix in the white outfit?”

“That’s Emma Frost…she’s from the Hellfire Club.”

“So she’s another evil woman in, what, lingerie?”


“I’m learning an awful lot about you, Bob.”

Me? I didn’t write these comics!”

p. 466 – Adam West busts:

Normally I’d make fun of statues and busts based on a television superhero’s alter ego’s likeness rather than the superhero him/herself…but, c’mon, it’s freakin’ ADAM WEST. He’s practically a superhero just on his own.

I like that you get your choice of jackets. Blue or checkered, sir?

p.470 – Rambo 1/6 Scale Figure:

I’m not sure I’m badass enough to own a likeness of Stallone that’s 1/6th as big as he is. I’d be afraid to have it in the house.

p. 490 – SMC-Ikki Tousen Kan-U Unchou PVC Figure:

Yet another in a long line of “CROTCH ATTACK – GO!” plastic, easily washable Japanese statues, which I normally wouldn’t bring up yet again. But, really, the more you look at that, the more you gotta wonder: “What kind of defense and/or attack posture is that, exactly?” Unless, you know, she’s distracting you while her partner clocks you over the head from behind.

p. 503 – Barack Obama Talking Bobblehead:

I assure you, this following joke is strictly nonpartisan. I’d use a McCain or Nader or Sharpton or McKinley or whoever bobblehead as a springboard for the same gag.

Disclaimer aside, bad joke COMING THRU:

“A Talking Bobblehead toy of a politician? What’s the difference from the real thing? AMIRIGHT?

Well, that was a lot of set-up for nothing. Sorry about that.

p. 503 – The Exorcist Regan Head Knocker:

“…Complete with bobble head and bobble bed action.”

I’m pretty sure Regan’s head did more than just bobble in this movie. And I never want to see the phrase “bobble bed” ever again.

But it could have been worse. There could have been a bobble toy based around that scene with the crucif…oh, I’m not even going to finish that thought.

p. 507 – Smallville Kara’s Kryptonian Bracelet:

Let’s flash-forward to a Previews catalog a few years from now:

“These Wonder Woman Magical Bracelet replicas are directly modeled on the props from the new hit Hollywood movie, and not at all those old Smallville bracelets with the S-logo buffed out and a Wonder Woman logo etched in!”

p. 507 – Smallville Veritas Key:

“Commemorate with this key prop replica that whole ‘Veritas’ thing, one of the most shoehorned-in plot developments in Smallville‘s broadcasting history. And given this is Smallville we’re talking about, that’s sayin’ something.”

p. 511 – The Nightmare Before Christmas Oogie Boogie Head Plush:

I wonder if once a year they dip into the unsold stock of Harry Potter Sorting Hat plushes, dye the material and make some other minor cosmetic changes, and vee-ola, Oogie Boogie.

Well, no, I suppose not.

p. 517 – Star Trek The Original Series 11-inch Nutcrackers:

Hey, Lena and JK! Does this count as another medium William Shatner has conquered? I dare say…yes, yes it is.

Also, I think we can assume Kirk has cracked some nuts in his day. That smarmy Chekov bastard needed a good nutcrackin’, quite frankly.

p. 517 – Star Wars Fabric Maches:

I was going to say something about “undermining the integrity of the characters,” but I don’t think there’s anything the merchandise can do that Episodes I-III hadn’t already.

p. 526 – Clue Harry Potter Edition:

“Was it Draco Malfoy with a Sleeping Draught in the Owlery?”

I’d normally prefer to not end on something with solicitation text that makes me want to punch somebody, but, alas, I must go where Previews takes me.

In which Mike is briefly cheered by the thought of a dead dog.

§ July 30th, 2008 § Filed under wood eye Comments Off on In which Mike is briefly cheered by the thought of a dead dog.

So here are a couple of covers I assembled for our local small-press comics anthology digest Wood-Eye, from back in my mini-comics days:

That first one is Wood-Eye #11 from July 1997, and if you’re familiar with pulp magazines or Golden Age comics, you’ve seen this terrible, terrible ad I used to create this cover. As I recall, we had a collection of old, beat-up comics and pulps come in, and just running around loose in the box was a torn-off back cover for a pulp magazine featuring this ad. I couldn’t match it up with any of the pulps in the box, so I ended up just keeping it.

Now, had it been ten years later, I would have scanned the thing and threw it up on the site, here (though I know, without even checking, that ad is somewhere on the internet). But, hey, we were in the midst of our mini-comics-producing mania, and I thought “hmmm, bet I could make a good Wood-Eye cover out of that.” Well, some would say I lost that bet, but that cover still amuses me. And by “amuses,” I mean “depresses me immensely when I look in that poor dog’s eye, as it pleads with me to give it a home,” and then I remember the dog they used for that ad has been dead for decades, and that makes me feel a little better…until I realize what I just thought and fall into depression again.

Okay, moving on….

That’s my pop! Wood-Eye #12, the last in the series, came out in July 1998…wow, a year between issues…I’m almost Frank Miller-esque in my timeliness. Still a better record than Ultimate Hulk Vs. Wolverine, however. Anyway, for that cover I used a photo of my dad from his teenage years, taken from a 1961 newspaper clipping. I think it was from a model-making competition or club my dad participated in at a local sporting goods store, and not from a police report, so I better not see any cracks like that in my comments section.

So, yeah, ten years since the last issue of Wood-Eye. That’s a very oddly specific way of making one feel old. I occasionally think about doing another issue, but…well, we’ll see. As a publisher, I make a good comic shop manager, but doing the comic was fun, if a bit of a time sink and not exactly a money-maker. But there is an undeniable bit of satisfaction in having the final printed product in your hands, even on this exceedingly low level of the publishing scale.

The heartfelt suffering of Sensitive Batman.

§ July 29th, 2008 § Filed under adam west Comments Off on The heartfelt suffering of Sensitive Batman.

“BOO, Batman!”

“Gosh, Bruce, did you hear that?”

“Nothing has ever cut me so deeply to the quick — no blow ever struck by any arch-villain — has ever hurt me so acutely…”

“…As that little boy’s ‘boo.'”

BONUS: Costume idea for next Halloween:

This first bit requires very specific Watchmen knowledge.

§ July 28th, 2008 § Filed under watchmen Comments Off on This first bit requires very specific Watchmen knowledge.

Former employee Kid Chris and I discuss the Watchmen video game…specifically, the racing game I was hoping for:

Kid Chris: “…So the special ability of Dr. Manhattan’s car would be teleportation, right?”

Me: “Yeah…and Rorschach’s car would…I don’t know, have a flamethrower or something.”

Kid Chris: “Or a grappling gun!”

Me: “Sure! And the Comedian’s car would have guns mounted on the hood….”

Kid Chris: “Would having Captain Metropolis in a driving game be in bad taste?”

Me: “Has that ever stopped us before?”

In other news:

  • Pal Dorian has begun Beach Party Week, which hasn’t a whole lot to do with comics, but a whole lot to do with…well, beach parties.
  • San Diego Comic Con 2008 may be over, but the pain lingers on. There’s some good coverage at Newsarama and Comic Book Resources, cataloging what happened at which panel if that’s the sort of thing you’re into.

    But for a more personal view, you can check out Bully’s reports and photos, which I’ve been plugging lately, or you can dig Kevin Church’s reports and photos. And, eventually, I’ll snag some of Employee Aaron’s photos from the event to display here.

    And Mighty Tom Spurgeon has your list of nominees and winners from this year’s Eisner Awards. That Justice League of America story with Vixen was the best single issue story of the year? Really? And I was shut out of the “Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism” award again…someday, Newsarama, someday…!

  • Had another purchase order from one of our local libraries for several hundred dollars’ worth of comic books for their children’s section. There was a little more leeway in regards to content, with more “teen”-rated superheroes being requested along with the usual mix of younger-skewing books. Iron Man, in particular, was being demanded by the patrons, so who am I to disappoint?

    Interestingly, just like last time I did this for the library, Archie Comics were singled out as books they didn’t want. None of their patrons want to read them, even for free, apparently.

Other people having fun.

§ July 27th, 2008 § Filed under employee aaron, watchmen Comments Off on Other people having fun.

So do you ever find yourself flipping channels, and you happen upon a movie you happen to like, and even though you have no intention of watching it, even though you’ve got other stuff you need to be doing, and even though you may even have a copy of it on DVD…you end up sitting there and watching it anyway, with commercials and pan ‘n’ scan an’ all.

Watchmen is kind of like that. (Well, except for the “having on DVD” part, at least for now.) I pulled out my copy of Absolute Watchmen just to check something and ended up reading half the book. And now I don’t even remember what it was I wanted to check in the first place. Oh brother.

Speaking of Watchmen, Employee Aaron text-messaged me from the San Diego Comic Con to tell me:

“Late scoop! San Diego sold out of the Watchmen!”

…so apparently everyone ran out of the trades down there, too. Or, at least, they’re getting scarce. I wonder what kind of crazy panic-pricing is going on for the single issues down there. Anyone got any reports on that?

A few other text messages from Employee Aaron:

“Alright! Just met Ryan Claytor then Edgar Wright followed by Wil Wheaton”

“There is a guy dressed as the Spirit…mask, hat, tie, gloves…Watchmen t-shirt. WTF?”

“Already want to strangle fan behind me. He just called Doc Manhattan ‘Mr. Universe.’ This is going to be tough.”

Also, following up on yesterday…here’s a report on just what the hell was going on at the Eric Powell panel, where Aaron got to join Mr. Powell onstage.

In other news:

Don’t forget to keep up with Bully the Little Stuffed Bull’s San Diego reports! It’s the cutest con report you’ll read this year! BONUS: At long last, Bully meets his favorite member of the Go-Go’s!

You can see the full photo stream here.

So there was Employee Aaron, on stage with Goon creator Eric Powell at the San Diego Comic Con…

§ July 26th, 2008 § Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off on So there was Employee Aaron, on stage with Goon creator Eric Powell at the San Diego Comic Con…

…sharing the panel with him, answering questions, plugging our store and just generally hanging out. Eventually I’ll have links ‘n’ pics, I suppose (and maybe even an explanation why Employee Aaron was on the panel with Eric Powell), but I can’t find anyone online with an eyewitness account to the horror just yet.

But until then, have another ad from Wizard #27 (Nov. 1993)…this one ran as a full-pager:

The ’90s was a strange time. Kids, if someone offers you some 1990s, remember to Just Say No!

Yet another post of bullet points.

§ July 25th, 2008 § Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off on Yet another post of bullet points.

  • Casual observation gained from speaking to customers ‘n’ employees: Dark Knight appears to be experiencing multiple views from moviegoers. I’m personally hearing from folks in the store who’ve seen the film twice, and a number who’ve seen it four times or more.

    It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a film more than once on the big screen…I used to do it a lot more when I was a kid, in those days before home video. I think I saw the original Star Wars about four times during its initial run, and again during its rerelease a year or two later (I think).

    Even in high school I’d occasionally see a movie a couple of times, just wasting time with friends. I think I saw Sixteen Candles about a half-dozen times for no real good reason I can name. Well, “Molly Ringwald,” that’s one.

    And in my misbegotten college years, my pal/former coworker Rob and I used to drag different groups of friends to go see Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure at the local dollar theatre.

    But since then…no, I can’t think of any other repeat big-screen viewings I’ve had since then. Even if I really like a movie, I know it’ll be out on DVD in about four months, along with bonus features/deleted scenes/other extras. (Someone, I forget who, once said that the theatrical release of a film is essentially a commercial for the DVD’s more complete film experience.) I’d rather spend my film-going money to see something else, and save the rewatch for the eventual Netflix rental, if at all.

    Not that I’m against the idea of repeat viewings, or down on anyone who does. I personally just don’t have the time or money or desire to do it myself.

    By the way, I’m beginning to hear a lot more people saying they didn’t like the film, which, you know, fair enough. We all can’t like the same things, after all.

  • You’ll be seeing lots of San Diego Con reports in the next few days, but there will be none cuter than the ones provided by Bully, the Little Stuffed Bull! Just keep checking this link for further updates, and great photos!
  • From yesterday’s comments section:

    1. “Pere Ubu” asks me to identify the uber-violent Popeye cartoon I mentioned in my Twitter thingie. I think the cartoon I was talking about was “Organ Grinder’s Swing” from 1937…I don’t know that it really was any more or less violent than any other Popeye short, but it seemed like the usual Popeye/Bluto conflict was a little less…adorned, I suppose. More brutal than cartoonish. And again…great fun.

    2. Reno Dakota asks if I’ve read the new issue of Ambush Bug, out this week at your finer comic book stores, and at ours, too.

    First, it’s a shame that the ’60s-style go-go-check cover is the retailer incentive variant, because that has it all over the “extreme close-up of the Bug’s face” cover that’s generally available.

    Second, I can see what Reno means when s/he notes “they practically could’ve included a ‘Dedicated to Mike Sterling’ caption at the end.” Guess which muck-encrusted mockery of a man makes a cameo? C’MON, GUESS. Okay, he’s oddly colored, but THAT’S HIM, baby. (And there are other Cameos of Note that were right up my alley.)

    Third, the comic itself…it doesn’t feel quite as anarchic as previous Bug adventures, but it’s still amusing and it’s nice to have the character back.

    3. The Poser tells me that there’s a Watchmen video game in the works. I did see this report earlier on Thursday, and it made me laugh and laugh. I want a first person shooter, featuring Rorschach and his assortment of grappling hook guns, spray cans and lighters, handsaws, et cetera.

    Or maybe a racing game, with all the characters in Ed “Big Daddy” Roth hotrods. Sure, why the hell not?

  • Pal Cully reminded me of this commissioned drawing of Swamp Thing‘s Abby by Rick Veitch. Very nice.
  • The things they used to advertise: came across this ad in the back of Wizard #27 (Nov. 1993) –

    Kinda sums up the early ’90s, doesn’t it?

I’m not in San Diego.

§ July 24th, 2008 § Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off on I’m not in San Diego.

  • Thanks for the thoughtful comments and opinions about Dark Knight from my last two posts…they made for good readin’ and I appreciate them.

    Don’t worry, I’m not going to go on for a third day about the film. But darn, it was a good’un, wasn’t it?

  • This past Wednesday was the last day of employment of now Former Employee Jeff at our fine funnybooke shoppe, as he is going to focus on his higher learnin’. So long, Jeff, and good luck! (And if you buy any more expensive camera equipment, remember to use my Amazon link next time! Help out your pal Mike!)

    The poor sap…er, the lucky fellow replacing Jeff is New Employee Tim, who used to work at a gun store, so we’d better be nice to him. Also, he’s far too young for Old Man Sterling to deal with, what with all his youthful exuberance and his hip attitude and his rocking and rolling music. But at least there’s the added benefit of his making Employee Aaron feel old, so that’s good.

  • And speaking of employees, both Employee Aaron and Employee Tim are spending all four days down at the San Diego Comic Con, leaving poor Mike, alone and afraid, to sling comics all by himself. Well, I would be all by myself, except I put the call out to the Legion of Former Employees, and lo, they did answer.

    For Thursday and Friday, we will have the shocking return of Employee Josh (second Employee Josh, not first Employee Josh). Presumably Josh won’t be dressing as a Hogwart’s student, like in that pic I linked, but you never know with him.

    For Saturday and Sunday, it’s yet another return engagement of the world-renowned Kid Chris, who will delight and amaze with feats of magic and acrobatic prowess. Here again is that pic of him dressed as a cowboy, in case you need a reminder of what he looks like. I don’t know if he’ll be dressed as a cowboy while working at the shop. Maybe he’ll take costume requests from the customers.

  • On the down side, we received on Wednesday a boatload of backstock books from Diamond that we didn’t order and, thankfully, weren’t invoiced for. It was a minor inconvenience, but one we didn’t need to deal with during the usual Wednesday morning order breakdown ‘n’ panic. On the upside, among these items were some copies of the Watchmen graphic novel which we actually could use, since our mighty sizable Watchmen restock is still winging its way to us. So, I just told our Diamond rep to charge us for ’em and we ended up selling them immediately.

    The multiple copies of the Knightfall trades, however — those can go back. (I mean, they still sell, once in a while, but I don’t need to be tying up cash flow with a big pile of them in the back room.)

  • A late follow-up to my “Fates of the Peanuts Gang” post from a couple of weeks ago: reader Daniel e-mailed me with a link to “Rest in Peace, Charlie Brown” — kinda like the Ragnarok of Peanuts. Thanks for the link, Daniel!
  • In the “Not Unexpected Consequences” department, the “God (Spawn comics)” Wikipedia entry I mentioned a few days back has been undergoing multiple revisions since then. Primarily, it’s revolving around the first line, originally reading

    “”God is a fictional character appearing in Image Comics.”

    …and now sometimes reads

    “God is a fictional character in Image Comics, and in the real world.”

    …which I’m sure wouldn’t bother anyone at all.

    The other major change is the “Created by” credit, which usually reads “Todd McFarlane,” but sometimes reads “No one–he’s God!” — and I’m suspecting the person changing the “fictional character” line and the person changing the “created by” credit are working at odds with each other.

    The only thing that really bothers me is the last line of the entry, which is sometimes missing that preposition I noted in my original post, and sometimes has that preposition. Those guys can have their theological debate…I just want that “to” back in there.

  • And now…another message from Licensable Bear™:

I resisted saying "Purrrrrrr-fect" in that last sentence, but only just barely.

§ July 23rd, 2008 § Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off on I resisted saying "Purrrrrrr-fect" in that last sentence, but only just barely.

First, I apologize for the relative sloppiness of yesterday’s post. I had to decide between “sleep” and “the weblog,” and I picked “the weblog” because I wanted to get my thoughts out there on the new Batfilm while they were still fresh in my noggin. I think I should have chosen “sleep,” as the memories may have been fresh, but my ability to form coherent thoughts was not. So, if you slogged through yesterday’s post, thank you for your indulgence.

But some of you folks took pity on me and made some good comments and asked some good questions, so let me address what you had to say. Note: SPOILERS for Dark Knight in the following bullet-pointed responses:

  • Rohan pointed out that there was a lot more moral ambiguity present in the film outside the circumstances the Joker forced upon our heroes. And he’s right: nearly everyone in the film makes a choice about lying to others, hiding information, obfuscating events, violating privacy, all in the name of the greater good. There’s still a significant contrast between what the characters do to themselves and what the Joker does to them: the Joker attempts to make people make choices that serve their own self-interest, while by and large the moral choices, the lies and the deceits the main characters perform, are for the protection of others.

    The question the movie asks, and is mostly not answered, as Rohan says, is whether or not compromising a moral position for the right reason is the correct thing to do. That’s certainly more to chew on than you tend to get in your average summer action blockbuster, and gives this Batman film far more thematic weight than any of its predecessors.

  • Joshnunn and pal Jo note another borrowed element from Killing Joke…the “multiple choice” origins the Joker reveals about himself. Interestingly, that multiple choice aspect seems obvious to us, since the idea is familiar to us from Killing Joke, but it’s possible some people didn’t get that. Roger Ebert didn’t seem to catch that in his review, writing about the Joker’s supposed childhood drama as if that were the explanation for his scars.
  • David Cutler points out that Batman in the Burton films was a little more free with the killing, taking out thugs left and right, making a save for the Joker at the end of that first film out of character had it happened. And he’s right…the Burton Batman doesn’t have quite the same moral boundaries that the Nolan Batman does. But I think my point still stands, that a very specific parallel is drawn between the two films by their similar Joker-oriented climactic moments, and the differences in how they’re handled is very telling in regards to each filmmaker’s perception of the Batman character.
  • Speaking of the Burton films, the quick line in Dark Knight about Wayne asking Fox to make him a new cowl which will allow him to turn his neck…I kinda read that as a poke at the earlier movies, even if it sorta applies to the newer films too.
  • There’s some discussion of a third film in the comments, too…and while I’m hesitant to want to see a threequel (given the usual diminishing returns we get in our superhero movie series), there’s no denying that Dark Knight was better than Batman Begins. Thus, there may be hope for a decent third film. Batman’s left in bit of a spot at the end of the second movie, so some resolution to that would be nice. But even if they leave it there, with no further film, I’d be okay with that, too. It would certainly underscore the themes of the movie if Batman is left forever in that cinematic limbo, always the outcast, always the scapegoat, bearing the sins of Gotham City for all time.

    Of course, the movie made a gazillion dollars, so we’re getting a sequel no matter what. I hesitate to predict a villain (or two) that’ll be in the new film, but I’m hoping for Mad Hatter. No reason, beyond seeing what they’d do with him. And because I’d think it’d be funny, since I’m a bad person.

    But I’m betting the folks saying it’ll be Catwoman will probably be right. As Mathew says, each film has focused on villains that serve to reveal more about Wayne/Batman’s motivations. And as pal Dorian opined to me yesterday, Catwoman would be a perfect character for such a purpose.

The Dark Knight.

§ July 22nd, 2008 § Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off on The Dark Knight.

The Dark Knight is about as good as you’ve been hearing…a truly affecting and even thoughtful movie, but not skimping on superhero action while simultaneously posing some questions about morals, ethics, and human nature. It’s not as terribly deep as all that…the moral dilemmas aren’t anything we haven’t heard before, but the actors’ uniformly-strong performances give the material the support it needs. It’s nice when an action film gives us something more than “I hope the good guy beats the bad guy up,” and that’s what Dark Knight delivers.

As per usual, I have a handful of SPOILER-laden comments that I wish to make, and I’ll do so right after this pic of Heath Ledger as the Joker. The SPOILERS end when you see Michael Caine as Alfred.

  • Of course, Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker was the stand-out, giving us something just familiar enough to previous filmed Jokers to latch onto, while giving it enough of a horrifying, grotesque twist to keep us on edge. There was a lot of nervous laughter in our theatre at the Joker’s behavior.

    The occasional moments when you see the Joker just sorta mumbling to himself…that’s what struck me. The Joker isn’t a guy playing up the clown motif and acting like he’s crazy. He really is crazy.

  • Boy, they couldn’t foreshadow Dent’s eventual transformation into Two-Face enough, could they?
  • For some reason, I found Christian Bale’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne in this film to be a lot more acceptable to me than in Batman Begins, where he seemed just too young and too…well, dorky to be the alter ego of the Dark Avenger of the Night. Wayne by and large looks more haunted in the new film, more weighed down by his history and his Batmanly duties. Even when he’s in action out of the Bat-costume, he still exudes a Batman-ness about himself. I never got that with his previous performance.
  • The film appears largely informed by the hypothesis presented by the Joker in Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke: that all it takes is one bad day to transform a regular joe into something beyond normal moral behavior…like, oh, say, the Joker. There’s a lot of testing of characters’ moral boundaries in this film, as the Joker prods them into discarding their ethics for their own benefit, to largely similar results as in the comic…with the exception of Dent, of course.
  • Speaking of Dent…unlike the “let’s throw in as many villains” recipe of other Bat-films, having Two-Face and the Joker in the same film actually worked thematically. The Dent/Two-Face character arc was in service to Joker’s ethical challenges, not in addition to them.
  • Dude, Batmanuel as the mayor of Gotham. Fantastic. Was that particularly heavy eyeliner he was wearing, or does he normally look like that?
  • I can’t help but think of the first Tim Burton Batman film upon seeing the conclusion to this film’s Batman/Joker conflict. In the Burton film, Joker falls to his death, whereas in the new film Batman manages to save the Joker from a similar fatal fall. I don’t recall specifically the circumstances around the Joker’s death in the earlier movie, but I seem to remember that Batman could have, you know, done something about it. It certainly strengthens Batman’s moral position in the new film.

    Okay, he does end up tackling Dent who then falls to his death, but Dent was about to kill Gordon’s kid so, you know, we’ll give that a pass.

  • That said, having Batman use guns…even motorcycle-mounted guns, not even handguns…seems wrong, given what we know of the character and of his long-standing aversion to firearms.
  • I like the more-or-less understated conclusion to the subplot involving the Wayne Tech guy discovering evidence that Wayne is Batman. The knowing look exchanged between Wayne and that fella after Wayne saves his life — the one that said “you owe me BIG” — I was pretty amused by that.
  • And the ending, leaving Batman on…well, he was already on the wrong side of the law as a vigilante, but now he’s really on the wrong side. That was a nice Empire Strikes Back-ian way of wrapping up the second installment, and establishes some important differences between Batman and other superheroes, regarding his willingness to be the scapegoat for the greater good.

Well, there you go. Good film, worth watching. I would have more to say, but I’m posting this very late at night…well, early in the morning, actually, and I’m going to bed. I have some other general thoughts on the film that I’ll transcribe when I’m not half-asleep.

Let me know what you think of the film in the comments…or post links to your own reviews. Go ahead, I don’t mind.

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