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So I haven’t really sat down and just written about comics and related topics in a while, so I’m going to see what I can get out of my system in, oh, the next fifteen minutes or so and then crawl off to bed.
Glad to see that Groo Vs. Conan #1 has finally hit the stands…it’s certainly not your typical issue of Groo, not only mixing the world of Groo with the world of Conan, but the “real” world of Mark and Sergio as well. The conceit of the series is that Sergio takes a knock to the noggin, leading him to imagine a story in which the two characters (Groo and Conan, not Sergio and Mark) meet. Thus is an extra layer of fictional reality added to the proceeding, basically making this a Groo “What If” or “Elseworlds” or what-have-you, and not part of regular Groo-tinuity. The Official Handbook of the Groo Universe surely will make note of the story’s non-canonical status.
Ah, I’m just being silly, of course…it’s all a lot of fun, and it’s good to see Groo back on the stands. The Conan material by Tom Yeates and the regular Groo art by that other fellow mix together about as well as you’d expect; it’s jarring, but intentionally and humorously so, and I suspect once we actually get some Groo versus Conan action, it’ll be quite the hoot. Sadly, Stan Sakai didn’t contribute his usually fine lettering job to this issue, likely given current circumstances
I believe, but Richard Starkings’s lettering is a reasonable substitute.
Completely changing the subject, the San Diego Con just came and went, which I can tell by the number of people who dropped by the store looking for back issue “keys” over the last few days, and I haven’t really gone out of my way just yet to see what, if any, comic news has emerged from that fire pit. Casual exposure via Internet news sites and YouTube and TV and so on reveals a whole lot of TV show and movie news, naturally, and of course everyone knows about the new Wonder Woman in that forthcoming Superman/Batman movie nobody likes already (I think she looks great, though I couldn’t avoid making the obvious joke because I enjoy being a problem).
Two bits of comic news I particularly enjoyed hearing…well this first one isn’t comics as such, but it’s about the ’60s Batman TV show’s home video release which is vitally important news as far as I’m concerned. The $200 or thereabouts price for the Blu-ray edition of the complete series is a bit dear, and while they’ve announced a stand-alone Season One on DVD, there doesn’t appear to be a Blu-ray equivalent. Can anyone point me in the direction of further information about individual Blu-ray releases for the seasons, or am I just going to have to bite the bullet and grab that complete set? BECAUSE I WILL.
The other big news is Fantagraphics republishing the work of Vaughn Bodé, starting with a big ol’ collection of Cheech Wizard. I do love me some Bodé, as I’ve noted in the past, but oddly enough I don’t have much Cheech Wizard represented in my collection. I definitely look forward to this release.
Oh, and the other news I heard this week was about a reference to a certain swampy friend of ours when you call John Constantine’s phone number. Haven’t done it yet, myself, but I guess I’d better or I’ll have to turn in my fanboy card.
There’s stuff about new Star Wars comics, too, but I’ll get to that later.
And that’s about fifteen minutes of typing (and virtually no proofreading), save for the minute or two scanning the pic. And don’t forget to go read my latest End of Civilization post…and remind me to post the one Diamond Previews listing I accidentally forgot to include this time around!
I haven’t mentioned pal Batfatty here in a while, but he’s in regular email contact, sending me odd pictures and crazy links, and this scan of an old copy of Screen Stories
he had autographed at the recent Emerald City Comic Con by Best Batman, Adam West.
It’s a beautiful thing. I need to ask comrade Batfatty to send a scan of the article, because that blurb on the cover has me intrigued. Assuming it’s more than just “look out for that Catwoman, she’s nuthin’ but trouble!”
So of course it’s during my brief blogging sabbatical that the biggest, most amazing comic news of all time is unleashed upon us. No, not that Marvel apparently had to outsource for a new cosmic character since, you know, they didn’t have enough of them. And no, not that DC’s “Event Formerly Known As WTF Certified Month” seems to be about 75% “Special Surprise Guest Star Month” so far.
No, it’s all about a new Batman comic based on the 1960s TV show starring Best Batman, Adam West. And, naturally, mustachioed Joker:
It’s a digital-first comic, with a print edition to follow, and features the work of writer Jeff Parker, artist Jonathan Case, and cover artist Mike Allred.
Not that I’ve been keeping close tabs on reactions thus far, but from what little I’ve seen people seem to very positive about this development…quite the change from a couple of decades back, when folks were getting the vapors over the fact that a guy who made comedies was going to direct a Batman movie starring a comedic actor and oh my God it was going to be the campy ’60s Batman TV show all over again, will comic fans never get respect? (Of course, the resulting film was sufficiently “dark” and “gritty” to keep those fans happy, though really it’s just as amusingly peculiar and goofy and, um, well, campy as the rest of the Burton oeuvre.)
Anyway, I’m thrilled about this new Batman ’66 comic, and can’t wait for it. When it comes out, if it’s not the best-selling comic of the 21st century thus far, then we will have failed as a civilization. Not that you should feel any pressure or anything, Jeff ‘n’ Jon.
Of course, I realize not everyone has achieved sufficient enlightenment to realize the beauty of Adam West Batman, and thus come with me back to the mid-1960s, via this January 8-14, 1967 copy of the TV Weekly insert from the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, coincidentally enough discovered in a comic collection we were processing just last week:
That’s a swell Dragnet cover, yes, but let us look to the letters page therein, where someone wrote in to complain that his favorite TV show was getting the hook because it could not compete with a certain Caped Crusader:
Wow. Just imagine how this guy would react to the idea of “Bronies.”
Well, let’s see here, what was going on Thursday night at 7:30:
Just look at that. How is anything going to compete with the triple-blast of the Joker and the Penguin and Venus? Sorry, Jericho and, apparently, Daniel Boone.
And sorry, D., but this moronic adult thinks the 1960s Batman TV show is a thing of beauty, and I’m glad to see it still being appreciated, all these years later.
BONUS BAT-HATER CONTENT, courtesy that atomic bomb in a human body, pal Andrew, who passed along this Letter of Comment from the April 1st, 1966 issue of Life Magazine, reacting to a recent cover feature on the Adam West Half-Hour Costumed Adventure Theatre television program:
Holy Dramatic Overreaction, Batman!
Here’s another paperback acquired in the same collection as the Batman TV show tie-in book I recently featured here: a T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents reprint paperback from 1966:
I hadn’t known this even existed. It reprints the story in black and white, about two panels per page. I couldn’t scan this bit (and the book is already sold, so I can’t double-check it) but one of the text pages inside described this as “camp adventure,” or words to that effect. To be frank, I’m no T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents connoisseur, but I always got the impression it was played more or less straight. Was it knowing high-camp comedy/satire all this time? …Or maybe it was camp because it was unintentionally goofy while
still being played straight (case in point: the covers above). Or are superheroes just intrinsically
camp, because, you know, c’mon. Or am I reading too much into a blatant coattail-riding of the Batman
TV show’s success with its camp formula? At any rate, I know a few T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents fans who wouldn’t care for that characterization.
Let the hair-splitting begin!
• • •
Speaking of that Batman book
, reader Pietro sent me a photo he took at a flea market in his home country of Italy, featuring an Italian version of what he believes to be the same book:
Pietro notes that the title translates as “The Three Cruel,” which is grammatically odd if still pretty awesome. Thanks for the picture, Pietro!
• • •
So I was in a Twitter conversation about Superman: The Movie
and Superman II
, and as these things usually go with me, the topic of Swamp Thing found its way into the mix. As a result, Daniel generated this fine piece of Swamp art:
The world is just a little bit more beautiful today.
…particularly when current events and personalities, both in the comics industry and in online fandom, get me fed up with everything and it’s all I can do to not change the focus of my blog to cooking tips.
So pardon me for a moment while I take a deep breath, center myself, and exhale slowly, while contemplating a recently acquired item of pure beauty:
God bless you, Adam West, Burt Ward, and known associates.
If you came to the site today expecting my reaction to this week’s Search for Swamp Thing #1 – I’ll get to it tomorrow, probably. Short version: Inept, but liked it despite itself.
“Batman…when I get out of jail, will you take me on a date?”
“We’ll have plenty of time to think about that, Catwoman…
several years, I’m afraid.”
“If I were to kiss you, would you think I was a…bad girl?”
“But, uh…no…no, of course not, Catwoman.
Kissing is one of the most natural things in the world! Uh….”
“Some people kiss almost every day, and I’m told…”
“C’mon, Batman, the police are here!”
“Catwoman…may I take a raincheck on that kiss?”
“There’s one thing in life you should learn, is to listen to your father and mother.
And I don’t think they’d approve of your association with Shame.”
“You’re right Batman. I should have known better.
But after all, I’m only seven years old.”
“You’re never too young to learn the difference between Good and Evil.”
“Let’s go, Robin…we’ve set another youth on the road to a brighter tomorrow!”
“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:
IS MILDLY SELF-CONSCIOUS.
The 1960s Batman TV show still remains one of my favorite media translations of comic books, as well as possibly one of the most accurate transitions from page to screen. A live action version of pretty much any random Batman comic from the ’50s or ’60s would almost have to turn out something like this show. The only way it could have been more accurate is if the TV show had aliens in it.
The primary difference between the comic and show is that while the comics were mostly simple adventure stories aimed almost solely at children, the TV show applied a more adult sensibility to the proceedings. The adventure aspect, the bright colors, the odd camera angles and odder villains…the elements of the comics that were so attractive to children still existed. But for adults there was the parodic subtext, the straight-faced acting of West and Ward, the pop-art live action recreation of the genre’s excesses…in a way, it reminds me of the “Real Live Brady Bunch” stage shows, in which the original stories from the TV series are given an additional comedic value by being performed in a new context, forcing the audience to reinterpret familiar elements in a new setting. Reading the adventures of Batman on a printed page is one thing; seeing those exact same story elements performed by real adults in oddly-fitting costumes is another altogether. One could make the argument that the Batman TV show preceded the 1980s trend of superhero deconstruction, by holding up and emphasizing the cliches of the genre for examination, criticism, and mockery.
The show’s immense popularity had an impact lasting even until today. The primary result of the show’s existence is that it now provides a convenient vocabulary for speaking about comics to the general public. More often than not, a space-filling article on comic books in your average newspaper will have a reference to the “POW! ZAP!” sound effects that used to fill the screen during the TV show’s fight scenes. Perhaps a reference to Robin’s oft-used “Holy [whatever], Batman!” exclamation would appear as well. I’ll admit to having been a bit irritated by this myself, more for its implicit laziness than for any reminder of the program.
The other impact was on comic fans themselves, where some felt that the Batman TV show maligned their hobby, causing irreparable damage to the public perception of their superhero stories. As a result, there is a heightened sensitivity to anything that even seems like it may be taking a less than serious approach to comic books. Not in “in-joke” comics like, for example, What The, which was there for superhero fans to laugh at themselves. It’s when the characters and situations appear to be opened up for examination and parody by those not “in the club” (i.e. the general public, or even certain comic creators) that the nervousness begins. And when it looks as if that these fans themselves may be the object of a some minor tweaking…well, forget about it.
For example, when it was announced in the late ’80s that Tim Burton (a director of comedy films) and Michael Keaton (a comedic actor) were to be involved in a new big-budget Batman film, there was, unsurprisingly, a huge outcry from these fans, fearing yet another “camp” interpretation of their character. (As it turned out, the bleak and dour Burton Bat-films that resulted could have used a little comedy, but that’s a topic for another day.) However, that fear was mostly unwarranted…even when the fourth, and reportedly worst (haven’t seen it, sorry), Batman film in that particular series was released, it didn’t become in the public’s eyes synonymous with comic books: it was just seen as another lousy film. When the recent Batman Begins film was released, despite apparent initial resistance prior to its debut, the movie ended up doing good business.
The reason behind all this rambling, today and in the last few days’ posts? Other than defending the Batman TV show and trying to put lie to the claim that all comic fans hate it, I suppose that what I’m trying to say is…relax, man. Batman is one of those characters that is open to widely varying interpretations for a variety of purposes, be it straight adventure, comedy, parody, pastiche, farce, horror, science fiction, or whatever…the occasional clunker ain’t gonna do any harm, and the occasional out-there Bat-comic ain’t gonna kill you. And while the TV show may cast a long shadow, there are worse things to be shadowed by.
Booksteve has some personal memories (and a good pic or two) of the show.
“Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”
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