So Iron Man 3 was better than Iron Man 2 and neither are a patch on Iron Man No Number but Is Now Referred to As Iron Man 1, but all in all, like I once said about the X-Men film franchise at a time when there were only three X-Men films, that we got three watchable and generally likable Iron Man movies at all is relatively miraculous.
I did have the same problem with this film that I did with the previous installment, that too often during the film I found myself thinking “why am I being shown this when I could be seeing Iron Man doing stuff instead” — particularly during that middle “Tony Stark, Action Spy Detective, Goes to Tennessee” segment of the film. But, I can’t say I wasn’t entertained, and you end up getting more Iron Man armor action than you can handle during the film’s climax, with too brief glimpses of the dozens of different armored suits Stark apparently assembled between sequels.
Okay, the “not enough Iron Man action” is kind of a terrible complaint…Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark carries the show whether he’s in armor or not, and I did enjoy the film. And it’s not as if I was expecting beginning-to-end Iron Man fight scenes…I realize there’s such a thing as “pacing.” When you get right down to it, the amount of Iron Man action was exactly the amount and of the correct quality for the story they were telling, he said as if anyone cared what he thought. I guess the old fanboy in me wanted more Iron Man in action at the height of his powers, outside of struggling against both technological and psychological failures, but I guess that’s what the Avengers movies are for. That this film, along with Downey’s portrayal, makes us like and care about the “civilian” identity as much, if not more so, than the superhero identity, is its real strength. Tony’s a cool dude that sometimes wears super-armor and his movies are fun…what am I complaining about, really?
Also, it’s nice that Bruce Banner was played by the same actor in more than one feature film. The lack of MODOK is points against, however. And, as always, not enough Miguel Ferrer, which is my gripe about pretty much every film.
In other news, I saw the new direct-to-home-video-disc Superman Unbound film, adapting that “Superman meets the REAL Brainiac” story that ran in the comics a couple of years back. …Well, that was certainly a Superman versus Brainiac story, with some neat visuals and an interesting subplot about Superman’s overprotectiveness of people in his life. Plus, the story ends on a big life-changing decision, which would probably have an impact on the sequel they spend time setting up at the very end of the film (a scene placed during the credits, actually) should one ever come, which it won’t.
It was fine, but honestly, though, I wish DC would just straight up adapt some classic Silver Age stories for their direct-to-DVD film program for a change…it’ll never happen, but it’s nice to think about. …At least the Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon took care of that need for a few years.
[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 had a fellow bring by a couple of comics he wanted to sell…an issue of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1960s series) and a copy of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, both of which had these taped to the front covers:
As it turns out, these comics were stored in such a way that the tape essentially dried out, and with only minimal effort these additions came right off, leaving behind only minor discoloration where the tape had once adhered to the paper. And while I offered the customer many times that long ago asking price of two cents apiece, it still wasn’t a whole lot, since the comics otherwise were in what we like to call “previously well-loved condition,” and the customer opted to hang onto them. He did thank me for taking those tags off the covers, and now, here they are, for you to enjoy.
Also, please don’t tape things directly to your comics. Unless you’re going to bring them to me and I can show them on my site and say “look what this person did to his or her comic…can you believe it?”
• • •
In my End of Civilization post from a few days ago, I noted the existence of the Batman and Robin action figures done in the style of Aardman Animation and how I was baffled that such a thing would even exist. Now…well, it is sort of amazing that such a thing is in the world, these Bat-Aardman figures, but I honestly hadn’t realized there are actual animated shorts by Aardman featuring these characters. A quick Googling reveals that this is hardly news to anyone except me, since I 1) cancelled my cable long ago and thus haven’t seen this DC Nation thing, 2) don’t read comic websites aside from my own, because I’m so amazing and perhaps somewhat self-aggrandizing, and 3) don’t really have a third thing. In short, that these animated shorts passed me by is just One of Those Things, I Guess, and since I do enjoy Aardman’s output, I should track ‘em down someday.
…this is a thing that is real. Just look at it. …Look at it.
• • •
Normally, I’d just delete spam comments, but this is a comment in French extolling the virtues of hentai, so I just left it after editing out the website address because it made me laugh. YOU WIN, SPAMMERS.
• • •
So I discovered (or, given my usual track record for such things, “found out long after everyone else” — see earlier this post) that our funnybook distributor Diamond Comics apparently has a Twitter account.
Huh. Well. …I mean, I’d happily run that account for them, for, you know, the occasional drop shipment of some coin of the realm, but, well, there might be a conflict of interest there for me.
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, remember those British Dungeons & Dragons ‘zines I posted about a few days ago? I threw them on the eBay, and most of them brought in $10 to $15 apiece, with a couple in the $30 range. But that Dragon Lords #1, with the signatures?
I started that at $8.99, by the way. Figured I’d get about ten or twelve bucks for it. …Guess I’d better break into that additional case of Dragon Lords #1 I have in the back room…!
Now, about that housekeeping promised in the subject of this post…I’ve had a few scans just sitting on my computer’s desktop, awaiting my use here, and I’m never seeming to get around to creating posts about each of them. Thus, I’m just going to throw them all into this post. Enjoy!
We had this copy of Choice Comics #2 from 1942 in our shop for all of, oh, I don’t know, five minutes before selling it off, but I managed to get a couple of scans from it anyway. I enjoyed Bingo the Kangaroo’s dismissive response to superheroes on the cover there:
I mean, we were this close to Kangaroo/Parrot Buddy Comedy-Adventure being the dominant genre in the comics industry. If only things went slightly differently…if only.
I also got a scan of this tough guy:
This is pretty much what every angry ‘n’ anonymous commenter on every Internet message board and comments section looks like, so don’t mess with ‘em.
Marvel recently released a bunch of “Avengers Art Appreciation” incentive variant covers for many of their titles, which featured the characters from the movie as depicted in a variety of art styles, and regardless of whether the comic sporting said variant had anything to do with The Avengers. But I thought this one by Steffi Schutzee in the style of Al Hirschfeld was nicely done:
They all look great, but Hawkeye is particularly amazing:
And finally…cast your minds back to the innocent, carefree days of 1975, where Six-Year-Old Mike sat in front of the TV in the living room, enthralled by the giant bird-monster featured in this episode of Return of the Planet of the Apes:
“Mom! Mom! Look at this!” Mike shouted to his mother, but alas, she didn’t come to the room in time to see the bird-monster cart away these…buffalo-things:
So, Dad, if you’re reading my site at home right now, be sure to call Mom over and show these to her, so she can see what she missed nearly four decades ago.
So the Great Gazoo is, well, showing off to Fred and Barney about how he knows what life is going to be like in the future of the Flinstoneverse. Well, yes, we all know that the Flintsoneverse eventually evolves into, and crosses over with, the Jetsonverse, and that at some point the Flintstones and the Rubbles travel through time to visit the 1964 World’s Fair, so Fred and Barney should be no strangers to time travel. But when Gazoo offers them a peek into tomorrow, Barney chickens out and settles for asking Fred to get him a present:
Or perhaps Barney didn’t trust that rickety ol’ time travel machine. Or Barney recalls those other time travel adventures and figures enough’s enough…assuming this story takes place after those stories, and that anyone remembers anything about whatever time travel adventures they did have…man, I don’t know. Time travel is complicated.
Anyway, Fred and the Great Gazoo zip into the 20th century, and Fred sees things like airplanes and cars and boats and supermarkets and dancing and other things I’m pretty sure existed back in Fred’s time, only not quite as dinosaur and / or foot-powered. However, I find Fred’s reaction to this particular future invention to be somewhat realistic:
And then Fred wonders about this other modern innovation:
Well, despite the fact that Fred obviously didn’t care for all that smoke, when it came time to pick a little gift to bring back to the past and share with Barney, guess what Fred chose?
Hmmm…that’s not quite the attitude Fred and Barney had about smoking early on!
Of course, modern days smokes are probably a little more potent, and likely too overwhelming for caveman lungs. You may want to consult a scientist for further information about this topic…the topic, of course, being smoking cavemen, time-traveling aliens, and, um, man and dinosaurs coexisting, which really doesn’t come up in this story, but let’s face it, that needs some explaining.