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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.
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!
“Skinny little Hansi.”
“She grew up. She filled out.”
[There may be SPOILERS ahead for The Dark Knight Returns, both animated and comic-ated.]
Now I suspect it’s going to be hard to believe that one can forget a large, gun-totin’ woman named Bruno, topless save for some kind of adhesive swastikas placed over her breasts, and yet this is apparently what happened to me prior to popping in Part Two of DC’s direct-to-DVD/Blu-Ray animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. If I had remembered, I’m sure it would have crossed my mind at least once to ponder “I wonder if they’re actually going to go through with that” or “I wonder if they’ll tone it down a bit.” Instead, it came as a complete surprise to me when Bruno showed up on screen. And it certainly is a different experience seeing Bruno in a four-minute fully-animated action sequence on a 50-inch screen as opposed to seeing a handful of panels in a comic book. And by “different” I mean “that’s going to come as a shock when Mom puts this on for Little Billy and then walks back into the room when Bruno’s onscreen fighting Batman.” Yeah, yeah, it’s PG-13 an’ all, but man, that felt like a bit much. So of course I got a screenshot and shared it with you on my site. You’re welcome.
As for the parts of this cartoon that aren’t about topless Neo-Nazis: what I was really looking forward to was Michael Emerson’s turn as The Joker. Emerson was probably the best part of that TV show Lost, playing an evil and slimy little jerk who was still at least somewhat sympathetic and certainly charismatic, and that performance comes though in this role as well. A bit of Emerson’s voice work on the Joker reminded me of, oddly enough, Paul Lynde, which I’m guessing was likely more coincidental than deliberate, and is certainly not a complaint. (And of course, when one thinks of Paul Lynde in relation to Batman, this comes to mind.) His Joker was definitely creepy and unsettling, and probably the high point of this whole endeavor.
And speaking of the whole endeavor…one of the most intrinsic parts of the original Dark Knight Returns comics was the constant internal dialogue running throughout, revealing each character’s hopes, fears, etc., as well as providing the most affecting and emotional points of the story. When Alfred dies as the Wayne Mansion burns, just seeing him drop onscreen doesn’t have anywhere near the impact of reading Alfred’s “Of course” when the same thing happens in the comic. And when they push the dialogue from the comic’s internal thoughts to the cartoon’s external voice…well, let’s just say having Commissioner Gordon outright say “I think of Sarah…the rest is easy” as part of a retirement speech to a roomful of people lacks the gravitas it has when he repeats it to himself in the comic.
And that whole business with Superman nearly being killed by the atomic explosion, and his subsequent revival. In the cartoon, it’s simply weird and grotesque. In the comic, with Superman’s inner pleading with Mother Earth, there’s that undercurrent of sadness and despair and desire to protect that’s left unspoken, nor even implied, in the adaptation. …I suspect some enterprising group of fans will someday make a reedit of these films, filling in the lost narration themselves, that the cartoons sorely lack.
Not to say that these films are entirely without merit…the big set pieces still work just fine: Batman’s battle with the Mutants leader, the last confrontation with the Joker, the climactic fight with Superman. And even the nearly last bit of business, with Carrie and Clark at Bruce’s grave site…that was pulled off nicely. I also appreciated that they didn’t stray too far from the comic’s 1980s origins, keeping Reagan as President, and there’s even a brief shot somewhere near the end of the film, which of course I can’t locate now, showing a storefront for “VHS / BETA” or something like that. Or maybe I imagined it. You make the call.
Overall, the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns animated adaptation was an interesting experiment, if flawed, with some nice voice work. I understand the choices the filmmakers made…well, my jury’s still out on the Bruno thing, but I guess fans would have complained if she wasn’t there…but in my opinion the loss of the internal dialogues from the comic cut most of the heart out of the story.
Well anyway, if these Dark Knight cartoons do well, maybe we’ll get an animated version of the sequel Dark Knight Strikes Again. That I’d like to see.
If you’re wondering about that Hansi comic, here you go.
So I received a used copy of this hardcover in a collection I purchased the other day:
And, well, I did have it in the shop as a new item before, but I never really did sit down and give it a good looking-at then, despite my enjoyment of Don Newton’s Batman. Thus, before putting it out for sale I thought I’d take it home and give it a read…what, it’s going to get more used? …Well, okay, yeah, I suppose it is, but I’ve the gentle touch of a professional comics handler, and can easily peruse this volume without causing further discoloration, dogearing, spine stress, or, God help us, foxing.
Anyway, I was a fan of Newton’s work, both on Batman and on Infinity Inc., which he had just started to work on when he passed away in 1984 at the too-young age of 49. Reading this book, I find myself struck by one thing, which will hardly be a new or original comment in regards to these sorts of reprint projects, but nevertheless it’s still an honest reaction. The pages are just too white and clean. The Young Mike that’s still rattling around in my head is expecting to be reading these stories on brown-ish newsprint. In fact, when I mentally picture Newton’s art, I imagine dark, moody images…all shadows and mystery. Reprinting in this book on bright pages with bright coloring, even the shadows look like you’re staring at the sun. …Okay, I exaggerate slightly, but still, it was a bit jarring to have the art right in front of me and contradicting my memories of same.
And before you say anything, yes, Infinity Inc. was printed on bright white paper with eye-searingly bright colors, but Newton’s sadly brief tenure there doesn’t have the nostalgic hold his Batman work has for me.
As I was writing this, another sorta unsung comics artist fave of mine came to mind that I’d like to see reprinted in a book like this. I’d totally be all over The Complete Irv Novick.
One of my readers was kind enough to point out that, in an old post of mine…I mean, really old, within the first month of this site’s life…one of the links I’d posted way back then had apparently since gone feral and now pointed to a porn site. Okay, first off…porn on the Internet? When did that start? And secondly…yeah, link rot. This site is on the verge of turning nine years old, and I’m sure many links in a lot of my old posts now go to destinations I did not originally intend. I mean, if I was sending you to a dirty filthy dirty site, I was usually pretty good about warning you up front.
I’ve heard about some people going through and consistently maintaining and / or removing links on old posts, but frankly, it’s hard enough to find the time to keep with new posts, or sleep. And then there was the great Blogger-to-Wordpress shift I underwent in early ’10, which resulted in some formatting and archived-post issues, and then whatever that company was that was supporting the old commenting system cut that support, so links to those comments are now no bueno, I guess, and…man, sometimes I feel doing a reboot, and just starting this website from scratch. FORGET EVERYTHING YOU KNEW BEFORE: WELCOME TO THE NEW PROGRESSIVE RUIN! and then I’d never refer to anything before that date ever again.
I’m not going to do it, but, back past a certain point, my site’s a mess. I do still go back and fix links and formatting and stuff if I have occasion to link to an old post, so I’m not letting things totally fall into barbarism, but…well, just assume any super old link is probably taking you straight to a site that’ll sell you V1aG4a or promise you pictures of people inserting Tab A into Slot B.
However, I am happy to note that I still occasionally edit my very first post to make sure it’s still sending you where I want you to go. Man, had I known they’d be fiddling with those addresses every year or so, I’d have picked something else for my debut entry.
Reader d asks
“Hey Mike, we all know you have every Swamp & Man Thing appearance, but do you collect The Heap as well? Just curious.”
Well, I don’t have every Man-Thing appearance…I do have every one written by Steve Gerber, as well as the first appearance in Savage Tales (not by Gerber), but from about the ’90s forward, I’ve been a little pickier about touching Man-Things.
That has nothing to do with the actual thrust of your question, which is all about the Heap, the original comic book swamp monster dating back to the 1940s. Sadly…no, I haven’t gone out of my way to seek out Heap comics, though I have picked up some of the latter day revivals, such as this 1971 one-shot I’ve discussed in the past, or this new version from Moonstone, or the Airboy/Mr. Monster one-shot from 1987, in which the Heap plays a prominent role, and is a great comic, to boot.
The original Heap comics are about to be reprinted in a series of three hardcover volumes, and I’m still waffling a bit on whether I can afford to pick these up for myself. My usual argument to talk myself into such things is “if I don’t get them now, I’ll probably never have another chance, at least this (relatively) cheaply,” so we’ll see. I am tempted.
On a related note, in that it’s asked in the same comments section, Casey wonders
“Mike, have you ever done a post about toxic Teen Titans continuity?”
Oh God, no. What I’d wished I had done is recorded pal Dorian and myself going on and on and hashing it all out and realizing that some of the time frames involved would make some of the adult characters a lot older than they should be, or that some of the lengths of time of team membership would be extremely short, or…hell, I don’t remember now. This was prior to DC kind of pushing the “sliding scale” of the Modern DC Superhero Universe to being about 20 years old, as of Identity Crisis, which I recall thinking was a slightly more reasonable time frame, given the amount of “important” events and continuity, not just for the Titans but for everyone, you had to squeeze in there.
Of course, post-Flashpoint, that scale is now about 5 or 6 years, depending on who you ask, I guess, so it’s all a moot point. And I hear tell Titans continuity has even more exciting problems now, as in some indecision whether there were previous Titans teams or not, but I leave the pondering of that question to younger, abler folks than myself.
And then sometimes I repost a gag I already made on the Twitter, such as presenting this gag header from Archie’s Joke Book #134 (March 1969 – hey, my birth month!) and lamenting the fact that in no way does the story live up to this title:
…which is just as well, since Archie couldn’t participate anyway:
Oh, scatological humor! You’re the best!
To bring things back around to the nostalgia of Young Mike from the beginning of this post, just before I soiled it all with continuity nitpicking, porn, poop jokes, and Man-Thing innuendo, I found myself the other day discussing the joys of Omega Men with a customer of mine.
Although I had read the introduction of the Omega Men in those three or so issues of Green Lantern, I didn’t follow them to their own series (which experienced some small controversy in its early issues due to depictions of violence, back in the “they didn’t know how good they had it” days of fandom). It took Alan Moore, a writer of some note, writing a back-up in two successive issues of the series (#26, pictured, and #27) to get me to take a look…and quite wisely, a new storyline in the main feature started up at that same time, giving Moore-ites like me a solid jumping-on point. It helped that 1) the new regular artist on the series was Shawn McManus, for whom I was developing a strong appreciation, and 2) that the comic itself was just a darned weird, creepy, and plain ol’ interesting sci-fi adventure.
As I was talking about the book with the customer, a couple of things dawned on me that, I suppose, shouldn’t have surprised me but did anyway. The actual run of that “new direction” for Omega Men, from #26 to the book’s eventual cancellation, was only 13 issues, plus an annual. It sure felt like it was longer…not in a bad way, I mean. It’s that a whole lot of stuff happened along the course of that comic, and it’s hard to believe they managed to fit it all into only about a year’s worth of stories (well, technically a year…I think some issues ran a bit late, if I recall correctly). Also, there was a Teen Titans crossover, and, of all things, a Crisis on Infinite Earths-engineered Blue Devil crossover, and an appearance in DC Comics Presents, so that probably helped in the perception of the comics’ apparent length.
The other thing that dawned on me was that the series wrapped up while I was still in high school, which doesn’t feel weird for anyone but me, I realize, but still, it seems like it’s more recent than that. Ah, well…tempus fugit, and all that.
I’ve since picked up the remainder of the series, which of course includes the first appearance of Lobo (which guides at a low $7.00, which sort of surprises me, except I suppose Omega Men print runs at the time were fairly large), and despite the occasional terrifying Kevin O’Neill art job, those earlier issues were fairly staid compared to the outright craziness of the McManus-era stories. Still fun, and worth checking out if you can find ‘em cheap, which they usually are.
Just to let you folks know, I’m probably entering Low Content Mode for the rest of the week, or at least lower content mode…the Thanksgiving holiday is coming up, and I’ve also got another project I’m working on at the moment that requires the focus of my creative energy, he said in a hopefully non-New Agey way, so probably you’ll not be seeing much more out of me this week aside from maybe a pic or two. Or you can follow me on the Twitter where I’m still likely to spout off about something. At any rate, I’ll see you on the other side, and please enjoy your Thanksgiving, where applicable, and everyone else, enjoy your Thursday. Thanks for reading!
Oh, here’s the end of the post! I was wondering where that was.
A few folks have emailed me about this over the last week or two, and now that I’ve finally watched DC’s latest direct-to-DVD cartoon, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part One, I can finally comment on Swamp Thing’s cameo:
Here’s another look at the rack, with the camera pulled back a bit so you can more clearly see that the proprietor of this shop needs to maintain the timeliness of this stock a little better:
I mean, that Swamp Thing came out in ’88, Crisis on Infinite Earths came out in 1985, etc. Someone doesn’t believe in “back issue bins.”
A couple of other notes about this DVD (or, rather, the Blu-ray, which had the special features I’m about to comment upon):
1. In one special feature, they flash a number of “groundbreaking” or “important” comics on screen, and apparently included this one as part of their “one of these things is not like the others” game.
2. The Bob Kane documentary lists Kane’s birth year as 1915, notes that Kane was asked to develop a new superhero in the wake of Superman’s initial success in 1938, and also mentions (a couple of times!) that Kane created Batman when he was 18. …The numbers ain’t addin’ up, there. I get that there was probably some fudging of dates here and there over the years for a number of reasons, but it seems funny that these “facts” were included in this documentary without comment when a moment of math reveals some issues.
At least Bill Finger got a mention, however. And it was nice to hear about Kane’s reaction when he first saw the crowds waiting for the first Tim Burton Batman movie.
3. The actual cartoon itself was pretty good…yeah, I know, why get the cartoon when most of us already have the original comics memorized. But I liked seeing how they adapted it, and I enjoyed the voice work…though what I am sure is the real highlight of the performances, Michael Emerson as the Joker, is yet to come in Part Two.
4. Though members of the Mutant Gang repeatedly say “nasty,” at no time, as far I noticed, do any of them say “balls nasty,” which is a damned shame, what that is. Almost a deal breaker.
So I finally picked up one of those DC Super Pets kids books for myself, and it should probably be obvious why:
Yup, it’s because I loves me some opossums. Also, Swamp Thing is in this book.
It’s a prose book, done in the classic kid book style with many colorful illustrations, giving me flashbacks to my long-ago tenure as a children’s librarian. There’s a section at the front of the book presenting an illustrated dramatis personae of the folks within, informing us that those four animals with Swampy on the cover are in fact his pets, the Down Home Critter gang (Mossy the Skunk, Merle the Possum, Loafers the Basset Hound, and Starlene the Raccoon).
The story involves Solomon Grundy and his own legion of evil pets attempting to raise up the dead pets from all the pet cemeteries around the world as his personal army…pretty gruesome for a kid’s book, I think as an adult in my forties, while realizing from personal library experience that kids would be perfectly okay with this. Anyway, Batman and Ace the Bathound are involved, because why not, and when Swamp Thing takes off with Batman in the Batplane to handle trouble elsewhere in the marshlands:
…that leaves the Down Home Critter Gang to deal with the menace for the majority of the story.
It’s all cute and funny, with Solomon’s pets being suitably gross, and it’s charmingly illustrated by Art Baltazar, which should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his work from Tiny Titans or Superman Family. Plus, there are some nice shots of Swamp Thing throughout, including a full page image of him shaking hands with Batman, which is probably the last thing I ever expected to see in a children’s picture book. And at one point, Solomon Grundy stands in a graveyard and commands “rise, zombie pets, rise!” which reminds me of Blackest Night so I’m going to think of this as tie-in, just because.
1987 bookmark, found in a book purchased at a garage sale. The Bat-ears are a little worn, but still, woe betide any master criminal who dares try to lose someone’s place!
Speaking of lips, I like that the Joker’s only apparent cell decoration is a representation of his own smackers around his window:
Sure was nice of Arkham Asylum to paint up the Joker’s wall ‘specially for him. …Unless, of course, the Asylum staff wasn’t responsible for it, and the Joker just up and painted those lips himself…which raises the question what he painted them with, and frankly, we’re better off not knowing. (Maybe he sneaked in some fingerpaints from the patient activity room, but then I start wondering “whose fingers” and, well, there we go.)
images from DC Comics Presents #72 (August 1984) by Paul Kupperberg, Alex Saviuk & Dennis Jensen
We interrupt our continuing discussion about rereading old comics to bring you Bizarro Joker:
from DC Comics Presents #71 (July 1984) by E. Nelson Bridwell, Curt Swan & Dave Hunt
I particularly could have used that trunk-loaded giant boxing glove yesterday on a driver that was stuck in traffic right behind me, leaning on her horn trying to get me to move when I was very obviously blocked by a truck stopped right in front of me:
Of course, if it were a big ol’ freaking Joker car in front of that person, I doubt she’d been honking, because, well, I’m sure she wouldn’t want a repeat of what happened to poor ol’ Charlie.
Anyway, let’s just take a moment and enjoy a fine Batman splash page by Jim Aparo. Fine work by a true comics legend.