So I’ve sort of binge-watched Arrow over the last month…well, it’s a lazy example of binge-watching, in that I watched the premiere episode on Netflix a couple of months back, and then got cracking on the rest of the series a few weeks later. I streamed the rest of the first season, and I’m nearly caught up on Season Two via iTunes.
My initial impression of the Arrow series was based on a brief viewing of an episode sometime during the first season’s initial broadcast, and that fifteen minutes or thereabouts felt to me like it was a narrative assembled on a framework of comic book in-jokes, and I made my Supreme Nerd Judgement based on that exposure. “BAH, THIS IS JUST COMIC BOOK IN-JOKES,” said I, and I went about my business, using that time not watching Arrow to, oh, I don’t know, cure all disease and create world peace or something.
Eventually I decided to give it another go, and once I started actually watching the series, I began to appreciate it for the fun action/adventure/melodramatic serial that it is. Yeah, there are comic book in-jokes (a character says she’ll be back in Central City “in a flash” because in the comics the Flash lives in Central City don’cha know), but there is plenty of straight-up DC Universe stuff going on in this series, too. Back stories, abilities and relationships are all altered a tad, but I still got to see live action Green Arrow fighting side-by-side with live action Black Canary, and that’s okay with me.
During the first season, with Green Arrow…excuse me, the Hood or the Vigilante…offing dudes left and right, I was reminded of a G.A. comic I read long ago, where Ollie accidentally killed a guy who was about to shoot him. Yeah, it was probably justifiable self defense an’ all, but Green Arrow is a Superhero, and not supposed to kill the bad guys, and he ends up, I don’t remember exactly, hiding out in a monastery or something to pay penance for his deeds. I suppose I could Google it (or, if I were a character on Arrow and absolutely nobody else, I could Bing it) and find out the correct story details, but that’s the general gist of it. He killed a guy, felt terrible about it, had to come to terms with it.
In a way, the show is taking the long-term view of that particular character development, by having Ollie eventually realize that he can’t keep killing the bad guys, and trying, in the current season, to transition to less lethal outcomes in his conflicts. He does slip once or twice…his killing a villain who was threatening Felicity is shown as weighing upon him; the apparent deaths of multiple Russian prison guards a couple of episodes earlier, not so much. But still, it’s nice to see a heroic character attempting not to take lives, rather than stabbing them or blowing them up and following it up with a clever quip.
Another slow transition is the introduction of superpowers into the series. Characters that traditionally have superpowers in the comics have had less paranormal replacements for those abilities in the TV show (Black Canary has a device that emits a sonic screech, Count Vertigo deals drugs that cause severe disorientation), but now there’s a serum in the series that gives people super-strength. Special guest star character Barry Allen has, in an episode I haven’t seen yet but know about already, his Flash origin (if not yet demonstrating any Flash powers, which is presumably being saved for that spinoff Flash TV show if it’s picked up). Allen even gives his backstory (in an episode I have seen) his encounter with a being that, if not specifically described as such, obviously has super-speed powers. I suspect with the popularity of superheroes in mass media now (you know, TV shows and movies), Arrow suddenly dealing with super-powered guys ‘n’ gals probably won’t be a traumatic experience for the general non-comic reading audience. A Flash guest-appearance will be the test of that, I suppose.
But I’m all for that, filling the series with more super-characters from the funnybooks. Funny that Arrow is becoming the go-to TV show for superhero action, with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., spinning off from the most successful series of superhero movies of all time, being generally a disappointment to fans expecting more of what they saw on the big screen. It’s more of the “street-level” superheroing, not so much the “flights ‘n’ tights” eschewed by Smallville, but Good Lord there’s live-action Deathstroke in this TV show. There’s the League of Assassins. There’s the Bronze Tiger. There’s Deadshot. There are mentions of Nanda Parbat, which plays heavily in the backstory of the Deadman comics, though I’ll eat my hat if Deadman shows up in this series. (I mean, actual dead-spirit-possessing-live-people Deadman…I’ll eat a hat for no less.)
In short, I like the show, and I expect to keep liking it so long as it doesn’t become the meandering-yet-running-in-place exercise in futility that Smallville became during its forty (or thereabouts) season run. That the lead character is already in costume, and that the thrust of the series is fine-tuning that character’s purpose in that costume, is already a vast improvement on the “is he Superman yet?” predecessor.
So a long time ago, I missed one episode of the Flash TV series when it was preempted, at least in our area, for some news coverage, if I recall correctly. I never did catch a repeat of it during its original 1990-1 run, nor did I ever see it rerun during any of its sporadic syndicated showings. If it had any, that is…I’m sure it must have turned up on the Sci-Fi Channel or something, he said, not even bothering to type it into the Google search bar in his browser.
Anyway, 23 years later, I’m browsing Netflix looking for something to watch, and instead of finally getting around to Blade Runner, just on a whim I decided “hey, no time like the present to finally complete my watching of the Flash TV series.” Thus was disc 5, with said episode (#16, “Deadly Nightshade”) rented and, a day later, in my home.
I didn’t think this through very well. First, it’s been 23 years. Every episode of The Flash at this point is going to feel like an episode I haven’t seen. All I can recall from my original viewings is a hazy remembrance of Mark Hamill hamming it up as the Trickster, and some vague disappointment that Barry Allen’s science lab partner, played by Alex Desert, never put on a Kid Flash costume. (He might have in the one-shot tie-in comic, like in a dream sequence or something. ALSO A HAZY MEMORY.)
And thus, my second point: I’m not even sure if this was the episode I missed way back when. I’m fairly sure it is, but man, who knows. But here I am, a rented Netflix Flash disc in hand, and by God if it’s here, I’m going to spend some of the precious few moments I have left on Earth to watch it.
Of course, I was immediately reminded of the crazy muscle suit that star John Wesley Shipp had to wear, in that glorious Tim Burton Batman movie era where superheroes needed the super-padded treatment:
The “Deadly Nightshade” episode featured a (sorta) post Star Trek The Next Generation Denise Crosby:
…and a pre-Star Trek Voyager Jeri Ryan:
…as well as series semi-regular THE BELZ:
Good ol’ Richard Belzer, in a rare TV appearance that isn’t Detective Munch. And that’s the Deadly Nightshade (or someone claiming to be him, wink wink) on the right, there, a sort of pseudo-Shadow vigilante. In fact, listening to the D.N.’s dialogue in the pre-credits opener, I wondered to myself if this was one of the episodes noted Shadow storyteller Howard Chaykin cowrote, and when the credits rolled, well, sure enough.
Ultimately, it’s still a lot of goofy fun, even if the whole production screams “1990s” so much I half-expected Parker Lewis to synchronize his Swatch with the Scarlet Speedster.
Also on this disc: the episode where David Cassidy plays the Mirror Master. I know it’s a drastically different version of the character, but c’mon, it’s David Cassidy. Not a bad disc to get based on a completely irrational Netflix rental decision.
So on Sunday, a lady brought by a pile of stuff to sell to the shop, and I went through the cards, the toys, the magazines, and came up basically empty…except for this:
The British hardcover Dukes of Hazzard annual…I had no idea them Duke boys had enough of a following in dear old Blighty to warrant a series of annuals, but there were apparently at least six of them. I hoped and prayed it was a comics annual, but alas, it was just short stories and puzzles and at least one article explaining CB radio jargon, all copiously illustrated with color photos of the cast:
There’s also an article at the beginning of the volume with sort of a FAQ, explaining what kind of car the General Lee is (“The General Lee is what is known in the USA as a ‘muscle car’”) and whether or not Hazzard County is a real place (well, there’s a town in Kentucky named Hazard that has some ties to the show).
Oh, and did I mention there’s a page of jokes? There’s a page of jokes:
There’s also a two page board game, with the unfortunate name of “The YeeHaa! Game,” page one of which may be seen below:
…in which players, when landing upon the “Yee-Haw!” square, must balance out the advantage of being able to interfere with another player’s progress in the game by bearing the indignity of having to shout out “YEE-HAW!” while doing so.* No, really, it’s in the rules:
Now we’ve had this book in our possession for all of about a day and I’ve already sold the thing via the Internet, so I’ll have to ship this sucker out when I’m back in the shop on Tuesday. I’ve gone from not knowing this even existed to already missing it within in a matter of hours.
Oh, I’d hold onto you like a limpet if I could, Dukes of Hazzard Annual.
* Maybe you can mix things up a bit by shouting out “Manara!” instead. …Or maybe not.
I’m currently reading Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, Sean Howe’s tell-all book about the history of the company and the personalities therein. Reading a handful of excerpts here ‘n’ there, such as this one over at The Comics Journal, finally got me to pick it up, and it’s been fascinating reading. I’m only up to about the early ’70s in the narrative, and boy howdy there’s a lotta drugs involved, but I am really looking forward to the material that covers what was going on with the company during my time as a funnybook salesman, starting with the big industry boom in the late 1980s.
That Comics Journal-ran excerpt covers a bit of that period, which is what probably finally convinced me to grab the book. I mean, there’s a quote from the editor of Secret Defenders describing the book as “that piece of shit,” which is both hilarious and, from a retailing standpoint, a wee bit annoying (as in “thanks for selling us a comic y’all really believed in,” even though I realize there may have been only so much even the editor could have done at that particular time in history). I’m kinda half-hoping the book would add to that title’s notoriety, and we’d have folks picking up back issues just out of curiosity just to see how bad it actually was for its own editor to say such things. No huge increase of back issue demand just yet! (Historically, this is the only issue of the series that anyone ever looks for…and I suspect demand will only increase as future Marvel flicks come along, presumably building on that character’s Avengers mid-credits cameo.)
Another comics-related-but-not-actually-comics thing I’ve been enjoying recently is season two of The Walking Dead, even though I’m not a reader of the comic it’s based on. Nothing against the comic, really, but I didn’t get into it early on, and suddenly there’s now seventeen trade paperbacks (or, alternatively, two huge omnibi) and I’m way behind, and I already read enough comics, and blah blah poor me life is hard. But the show is a lot of relatively-harrowing fun, and the zombies are suitably gross, and I like a lot of the actors. The show has yet to top the excellent series premiere, but the second season’s focus on the cast trying to make a home at the seemingly-safe farm, and its build-up to the apocalyptic season ending, made for some perfectly fine serialized horror storytelling.
Two other things about Walking Dead: 1. Every time I hear the main character’s name, I think of the cartoonist. 2. I wonder how soon after the TV show ends that the market will be flooded with all those different covers for the comic’s hundredth issue? I mean, those sold way above and beyond what the comic normally sells. (I remember discussing our ordering strategies on #100 as we were trying to decide our numbers…I argued for lots of copies of the $19.99 wraparound chromium cover variant as I figured that would do well for Internet sales. Everyone else thought I was crazy, but we ordered my recommended number anyway…only to have them sell completely out on the shelf in the shop within a couple of days of their release.)
The Legends of the Super Heroes DVD from Warner Archives, the made-on-demand online DVD shop for films and TV shows that, for whatever reason, couldn’t swing a general retail DVD release.
Now, I haven’t seen these two specials (“The Challenge” – our heroes versus the Legion of Doom, and “The Roast” – a celebrity roast hosted by Ed McMahon) since they originally aired in the late ’70s, but I recall, as an eleven-year-old Mikester, enjoying them, cheesy as they were. Here’s a taste:
BONUS: Comedian Jeff Altman pops up as Flash villain the Weather Wizard at the end of the clip.
Yeah, it’s really heavy on the camp, but whereas the comedic aspects of the similar ’60s Batman TV show were more knowing and self-aware and amusing, I suspect the out-and-out farce of Legends may be hard to take for those of us who still hold out a little hope for some remaining dignity for our four-color friends who wear tights and fly around and punch each other. I mean, I don’t know…like I said, I haven’t seen these in decades, so I can’t tell if the awkward half-assedness of the proceedings would ultimately result in being sort of entertainingly charming or simply unbearable. A mix of both, I’m presuming.
But still…Jeff Altman as the Weather Wizard! Okay, I don’t know why I’m fixated on that, but I am. What can I say, I like Jeff Altman. And Night Court‘s Marsha Warfield apparently appears in there, somewhere. And it’s the only live action versions of some of these characters, like Legion of Super-Heroes baddie Mordru, and Captain Marvel’s nemesis Sivana. And then there’s Ghetto Man, which…yeah, I know, but he comes out and rips on the heroes with a short bit of stand-up which, watching it just now via the YouTube, actually has a couple of pretty good superhero jokes in there…plus, he and Batman totally hip-bump as he’s coming onstage, and that’s awesome.
So anyway, Legends of the Super Heroes…it’s now officially out there in non-bootleg form for anyone who dares to watch it. Not sure if I’ll get it, myself…but I suppose nostalgic curiosity will eventually win out. If nothing else, it’s an interesting artifact of the time. Plus, it features Jeff Altman. Have I mentioned that?