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“You’ll find him popping off at Pop’s Sodium Shoppe….”

§ March 18th, 2024 § Filed under television § 6 Comments

I am still in “low content mode” here on the site for at least the next couple of days. Last week it was birthdays and family stuff, this week it’s medical stuff, which is a lousy birthday present. Anyway, I’m hoping to be back up to speed by Friday, but don’t be surprised if I go ahead and just start afresh on the following Monday.

At any rate, I’m going to, cough, “borrow” a topic from the esteemed Mark Evanier, who recently featured “Unsold Pilot Week” on his site. Now one of the pilots he featured particularly intrigued me, a 1967 attempt at a live-action Dick Tracy.

As Mr. Evanier notes, it was from some of the folks what brought you the 1960s Batman. show, which you’ll definitely get from factors such as the set design, the opening credit animation (which I liked, despite the most awful theme music), the “spinning hat” scene transition device, and so on. I ended up later watching it via the YouTube app on my Roku, and thought it was…interesting, and a slight shame we didn’t get more.

But when I later returned to my YouTube app to check out the latest capybara videos, I saw yet another unsold pilot in my suggested videos. And it was one that Mr. Evanier hadn’t featured, and I think the Unsold Pilot Week is over by now, so, hoping I don’t step on any toes, here’s the mid-1960s pilot for Archie, based on those very comics.

(Sorry, I’d embed it, but whoever uploaded the video has disabled sharing it in that way.)

Did I watch the whole thing? Sure I did! I think overall it did feel very…Archie-ish, with situations just outlandish enough to feel like they jumped off the comics page. I particularly enjoy the interaction between Archie and Mr. Weatherbee. It really is a shame this hadn’t gone to series. I can’t imagine how long it would have gone, as the probably 20-year-olds playing the kids would have likely become a little long in the tooth in short order.

Anyway, it was a fun watch, and if you’ve got a half an hour to spare, maybe give it a go.

The Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time Spider-Man comic.

§ March 14th, 2022 § Filed under television § 8 Comments

Okay, I have a brief break from those early morning appointments for the week (though they’ll be back in action next week…ugh) so I’ll try to do a little catching up!

In my post about the “variant” for Amazing Spider-Man #194 (the first Black Cat), Joe replied

“Thank goodness it apparently wasn’t a yellow variant [Saturday Night Live] destroyed this weekend.”

And then Joe links to this video of the sketch in question, where the premise is an ’80s kids TV show is working out the kinks on how to “slime” the performers. [NOTE: uses a derogatory term as part of the running bit about how the ’80s were more…lax about such things.]

Yup, as far as I can tell, that’s a gen-you-whine Amazing Spider-Man #194. I’m going to post a couple of screen shots in case that video goes away:

And here’s as good a close-up as I can manage. COMPUTER, ENHANCE

As Joe asserts, it doesn’t appear to be a yellow-stripe edition, so the SNL crew only destroyed a $600 comic, not an $800 one.

Now I tried to catch the show in an anachronism, so I checked some dates. The comic was released in April of 1979, according to the Grand Comic Database. The Wikipedia page for the television show being parodied here, You Can’t Do That on Television, says the show started in February of 1979, and that “slime” was a thing there from the get-go. As such, I guess the timeline works out.

I wonder if the SNL crew knew exactly what comic they were getting…I’m presuming they were seeking out a period comic to fit the setting for the sketch. It surprises me that they singled out this particular issues, instead of some other easier-to-obtain comic from the same time. Especially since right now Spider-Man comics are red hot in the back issue market, in particular notable issues like the first appearance of the Black Cat.

I don’t think there were any “facsimile” editions for this issue, which is Marvel’ s direct reprints of some of their older, occasionally classic, comics. If there were, the cover would look the same, save for a different cover price and…the UPC code, sometimes? Anyway, there was one of those $1 “True Believers” reprints of this issue, but that had a big, bright yellow banner across the top of the front cover, which is definitely not present in the original.

Or it could be a mock-up of a #194, with the cover for that issue printed out somewhere and then glued over the face of a more recent, and much less expensive, issue. A long time ago, at the previous place of employment, we helped out a local theater production that wanted a spinner rack of period comics as a stage prop. We took a number of 1950s comics we had in stock, made color copies of the front covers, pasted them on bargain box comics (probably cheap stuff like Incredible Hulk #271) and there we had it. It doesn’t appear that’s what they did on SNL, but thought I’d made note of the possibility.

For what it’s worth, that does appear to be the actual back cover of the comic:

…so they would have copied the back cover, too, if this was a paste-up, or found another comic with the same back.

Or they just happened across a really beat-up copy of that #194 and got it cheap. Who knows? Well, they do over there on that TV show, I guess. Anyway, ignore all that speculation above because I’m sure no one was going to go through that much trouble to construct a prop comic when it was much easier just to spend TV money and buy one. Frankly, I’m surprised they bothered, but I guess someone over there didn’t want to hear about it from dorks like me if they used a 2022 Spidey in a sketch set decades ago. On the other hand, SNL has historically been on top of things when it comes to comics, so I guess I can’t be too shocked.

[EDIT: Joe returns to inform me that he found a TikTok video where someone with a better resolution video than what I’ve got determined it was a paste-up job…apparently over Thor #461. So please ignore most of my post!]

[Also, Googling shows that I’m two weeks late on this particular story. Oh well, What Can You Do?]

What would have been a little funnier, I think, is if the Saturday Night Live sketch had used a copy of this comic instead:

It’s only a little older than the comic they actually used…and much less expensive, I bet!

Where Buck Rogers is now.

§ September 8th, 2021 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, television § 6 Comments

Sorry for the extended interruption…one of the downsides of being at the shop all week, if that’s not a downside in its own right, is that many other chores and miscellaneous life stuff have to be done around that particular responsibility, which, depending on the activity, means “at night, after work.” Usually I can balance my free blogging time with whatever other responsibilities I have, but this time we had a lot of stuff that needed to be done in a short time frame, so my nights have been otherwise occupied.

Now I think the current state of emergency is over, though some follow-up is possible. But, in the meantime, I think the site will be back on whatever passes for its regular schedule. Thanks for sticking around, pals.

So what exactly have I been doing relaxation and fun over the last couple of weeks, when I wasn’t doing the work I’d been doing? Why, watching the classic 1979-81 TV sci-fi adventure Buck Rogers in the 25th Century starring Gil Gerard, Erin Gray, and Mel Blanc, of course.

I happened to be flipping through the selections on the free streaming app Tubi and spotted both that show and the original Battlestar Galactica amongst its programming. I watched a little of BG, but I feel like I’ve seen plenty of BG in reruns and such over the decades. However, BR existed in my head mostly as vague memories from childhood, save for the opening narration and theme music which I’ve always quite liked:

(NOTE: that’s the second season opener, with a different narrator. Music’s still good, though.)

It’s perfectly affable fun, which I’d been tweeting about lately. Buck as a “man-out-of-time” is mostly restricted to his using modern informal English and idioms that 25th century people don’t grok. But there are lots of fun guest-stars (Frank Gorshin! Markie Post! Peter Graves! Buster Crabbe! Cesar Romero! HENRY FREAKIN’ SILVA!) and completely misleading lurid titles (“Planet of the Slave Girls,” starring Jack Palance) and all the gals are squeezed into unforgiving spandex (and at least one gal in an outfit so revealing I caught an extra checking her out briefly)…it’s all so much of its time, but still a lot of fun to watch. Lots of shots set in modern factories and at least one parking garage, it looked like, but you know, that’s all fine.

And look, I haven’t even watched the episodes with Gary Coleman yet. How can those not be great?

I know many special effects, sound effects, and even props were shared between this show and Battlestar Galactica (hello, same control stick in Galactica‘s Vipers showing up in the Buck Rogers ships) which, again, whatever. But I’ll tell you, the control stick thing bothered me back then, and it still bothers me now. Unless they were leading up to the eventual Buck Rogers/Battlestar Galactica crossover, in which case all is forgiven.

So I’m only partway into the first season, and I know Hawk is awaiting me in Season 2 (I actually remember the Starlog cover he was on far more clearly than anything in the show itself). Thus, no spoilers, please.

If they’d just kept making episodes of Swamp Thing, they’d still be around.

§ September 23rd, 2020 § Filed under television § 7 Comments

Well, coming as a surprise to pretty much nobody, the DC Universe streaming service is going comics-only starting next year. The name is changing to “DC Universe Infinite,” though not so infinite that it’ll continue supporting Amazon devices, Roku, XBox, or Apple TV. Which is a shame, as I liked reading comics on my big-screen television, and I suppose there are some clunky workarounds, but it’s not the same.

The DCU original TV shows are moving over to the still-not-competitively-priced-for-the-streaming-market HBO Max, with announcements of new seasons for Doom Patrol and Harley Quinn, and the previously-announced new season of Young Justice. The press release also says “key DC classics” will also make the move, so I don’t know if that means all of the Batman animated series, the ’90s Flash, or the remastered ’70s Shazam! will pop up there or not. And I imagine that DC Daily archive of episodes isn’t going to make the transition, but I suppose a number of those will live on over at YouTube.

“Yes yes yes, but what does this all mean for you, Michael Ricardo Anatoly Sterling?” I can hear you all desperately asking. Well, my initial reaction was to go ahead and click the “cancel subscription” button DC Universe helpfully provided in its email to me informing me of this coming change. And I thought long and hard about sighing heavily and subscribing to HBO Max.

But ultimately…I think I’m going to stay on. I do have an iPad which I primarily use only to read comics on DC Universe, which is how I read most of the Hitman run while waiting in the jury duty waiting room a while back. And currently I’m going through a bunch of Golden Age Superman stories. There’s plenty more on there I want to check out besides, so I think I can continue to get my money’s worth out of the service.

As to HBO Max…I understand there’s a commercial-supported free version coming, but I figure it’s going to have limited content like the free version of the Peacock streaming service (which only gives you partial seasons of programs, stuff like that). I’ll wait and see, and also wait if there’s going to be a price drop anytime soon. DC Universe hasn’t been shy about throwing discounted special offers, and I expect that’ll continue into the future, so I’ll just wait and see how all that shakes out over the next several months.

Worse comes to worse, I can just wait for the DVD/Blu-Ray releases of any of that new material showing up on the service and just borrow the discs from Netflix. Yes, I’m the guy still getting physical discs from Netflix, like a savage.

I will say DC going comics-only got me thinking about Marvel’s long-running online comics library, as I’d at least like to read all the Hulks that came out before ’83 (when I started reading the thing) but I I’m going to hold on that thought for the time being. Maybe once I get through the teetering stacks of books I already have waiting for me.

So, sorry to see DC Universe go, and I’m at least willing to try out the new iteration of the service. I mean, look, they have to add the Silver Age Metal Men to the service eventually.

Just a quick notice…

§ July 17th, 2020 § Filed under doom patrol, television § 3 Comments

…that although the entire cast is perfect in their respective roles and deserve all the accolades they get for their performances, it’s Brendan Fraser’s voicing of Cliff “Robotman” Steele that most sticks the landing for me. That hilarious “I can’t believe this shit!” tone in his voice is amazing, as well as the handling of the more serious moments, is the ideal match for the character. That’s what I’m going to hear whenever I read Robotman in a comic book from this point forward. (And one should note the person actually in the robot suit get-up, Riley Shanahan.)

When the series was first announced for the DC Universe streaming service, I admit I had some skepticism as to how they would handle the character. I thought for sure they’d come up with some in-story reason to not actually show Robotman as Robotman as a cost-cutting measure, like having the Chief give him some kind of hologram disguise so that Cliff could just look like a normal human most of the time. Save those Robotman moments for a couple minutes at the end of each episode, that sort of thing. But kudos to the makers ofthe show…they promised us Robotman, and by God they gave us Robotman. (There have been a couple of instances where Fraser appears as the human Cliff, both in flashbacks and in certain present-day events, but it never feels like it’s for budgetary reasons. In fact, I’d imagine it probably costs more to have Mr. Fraser on set.)

Anyway, Doom Patrol is an excellent show, and I’m glad it’s getting further exposure by being simul-streamed on HBO Max (though I’m sure that’s just one of the many signs that the DC Universe service is probably not long for this world, at least in its current form).

Oh hey, Tony “Leave It to Beaver” Dow directed some of these.

§ May 18th, 2020 § Filed under swamp thing, television § 11 Comments

So in response to my brief description of the original 1990s Swamp Thing TV show, Brian wondered:

“‘Off-putting’ how? I have never seen this show, but have always been curious about it. Thanks!”

You’re welcome!

I thought about this question a lot over the weekend, actually. Mostly along the lines of “why did I say it was off-putting?” And to be completely frank, I couldn’t really put my finger on it. It had been years since I’ve seen episodes of the series, after all (even with the DVD sets…more on that in a moment), so I couldn’t remember any specific examples. Maybe I was conflating Swamp Thing with other late ’80s/early ’90s direct-to-syndication series that, to my mind, haven’t really aged well in my memory (and perhaps in reality)?

Well, there’s only one way to find out, isn’t there? BUST OUT THE SWAMP THING TV SHOW DVD SETS.

A couple of confessions here…last time I noted that I had the full run of the series on DVD. I was mistaken. I have “Volume 1″ (containing seasons 1 and 2” and “Volume 2” (containing the first 26 episodies of Season 3). Yes, there were some broadcast shenanigans apparently, resulting in what amounted to a very long third season. I don’t know, don’t ask me. But the end result was that, I dutifully bought those first two sets and never did get around to getting that last set. I seem to remember thinking “ugh I haven’t even watched these first two sets, I’ll get that third one eventually, I’m sure it’ll always be available for cheap.”

And yup, soon as I realized, like, this weekend, “oh yeah that third set, I need to get it” and tried to look it up, of course it’s out of print and not available. Not even on eBay, where out-of-print items go to get listed at stupid prices. Thus have I fallen down on my job as Swamp Thing Fan, but I imagine I’ll get a copy of this Volume 3 someday. On the other hand, when searching for that third set, I did see the DVD collection of the cartoon was being offered by multiple sellers for about $60 a pop. Take it from me, kids…don’t pay $60 for this. It was barely worth the…what, ten bucks I paid?

Okay, second confession…I think I’ve barely watched these discs. I did watch the special features (interviews with Swampy’s cocreator Len Wein and Swamp Thing himself, Dick Durock), and a handful of episodes, but I don’t think I ever made the commitment to watch them all straight through. I did watch some, and I certainly watched episodes of it when it was on actual broadcast TV, with commericals and everything, like some kind of savage, so I have experienced the show. But it’s been so long since the show was originally on the air, and probably a good decade or so since sampling these discs…I honest don’t remember a whole lot about them.

I did recall a couple bits…the opening title sequence and narration (“DO NOT BRING YOUR EVIL HERE” and Swamp Thing’s obviously animted eyes at the end), and, what I think may have been the element (heh) of the show that gave me the impression of its off-puttedness: Swamp Thing’s voice. It was modulated or altered somehow, giving it this odd almost metallic sound which seemed out of place given the nature-oriented being Swampy was supposed to be. Kinda like autotuning, only without the pretense of attempting to be musical. Points I guess for trying to do something different, given that in the Return of Swamp Thing film it seemed like they did literally nothing to the character’s voice, but the sound grates just a little.

My other memory of those show is that they did their level best to avoid showing the actor, the previously noted Mr. Durock, in the full Swamp Thing get-up. I had a specific recollection of someone talking to Swampy while all you could see is his head poking up over some shrubbery or whatever. And to be fair, in the two episodes I sampled on Sunday (season two’s “Birth Mark” and season three’s “Night of the Dying”) Swamp Thing did indeed show up in full regalia when necessary. Now it could be I’ll see some time/cost saving measures of our hero standing behind walls and stuff and only showing his head in other episodes, but we’ll see, assuming I keep watching these.

And, you know, I might. The episodes I watched…weren’t the greatest TV shows I’ve ever seen, but they were pleasant enough. It’s kind of nice to watch a superhero-based live action adventure show that’s only a half-hour long (AKA about 20 minutes without the commercials) so we’re in and out of the story quickly enough before you start thinking things like “this is kind of dumb” or “enough of all these ordinary people gabbing, when’s Swamp Thing showin’ up?”

One of the episodes, “Birth Marks,” introduced “Abigail,” played by an as-I-recall-embarrassed-by-it-later Kari Wuhrer, and of course Swamp Thing aficionados know, characters named “Abby” are of some importance in the Swamp Thing mythos. I haven’t watched enough of, or recall enough of, the show to know if there’s any similarity to the comic character beyond the name, but she does have mysterious psychic powers, recalling those issues of the first Swamp Thing comic book series where Abby Arcane evidenced some strange abilities of her own.

Also, the first credited actor in the show is Mark Lindsay Chapman, who plays “Dr. Anton Arcane,” and as I recall, in addition to the episodes I just watched over the weekend, he’s the main bad guy in pretty much every installment. Basically, he’s the star of the show, it looks like, which is fine because he’s a fun bad guy. There’s also a passing reference to Jason Woodrue in “Birth Marks,” so I’m looking forward to see how they deal with him. I’m guessing not a weird alien plant dude?

Continuity appears to be light, but not nonexistent. As I said, “Birth Marks” refers back to Woodrue, and “Night of the Dying” flashes back to a previous episode. From what little I’ve seen, there’s a light attempt at keeping things connected but not in an overt soap-opera style parade of subplots and character development that became the going style once it became progressively easier for people to watch TV without having to sit in front of the box when the show was on (and without having to program a VCR).

So Brian…I may have jumped the gun a little calling this “off-putting.” I mean, I can get used to the voice, and the Swamp Thing’s costume is…clunky, but I can deal. I enjoyed Swamp Thing as a prime example of a kind of TV adventure program that was very much of its time. Not deep, but fun, and I’ll try to watch more and finally get my money’s worth out of these two sets. And look forward to paying too much for that third set.

In which I only use the f-word once.

§ August 9th, 2019 § Filed under swamp thing, television § 3 Comments

JohnJ wrote, in response to my post about the final Swamp Thing episode:

“…After I recently watched the 11-episodes of Titans I am curious whether Swamp Thing also dropped as many ‘f-bombs’ as Titans did. I didn’t count them but there were soooo many. More than 50, less than 100 I would guess. Enough that it was painfully obvious what somebody thinks ‘mature’ means and from every character.
I’ve watched the first episode of Doom Patrol and don’t remember the language being that salty.”

Well, there were a few choice uses of that particular vulgarity throughout Swamp Thing‘s run, but relatively few and far between. In fact, it was a surprise whenever one would drop.

Not like in Titans, where, hoo boy, they weren’t shy about their pottymouths. The sheer incongruity between what our perception of what the Teen Titans has always been versus what the TV show presented probably made the that particular swear stand out…oh, and the fact that they used it like a million times, that helped too.

It just felt somewhat tonally inappropriate, whereas in Doom Patrol, where our favorite f-bomb was used with a significant amount of frequency and enthusiasm, it seemed, well, natural. Probably from a comic fan perspective of knowing that Doom Patrol spent time under the Verigo banner, therefore swearing, and just from the general feeling that this show is “different” and all that usage of Carlin’s Seven Words is just another example of how this superhero show is different from other superhero shows.

Oh, and then there’s the fact that Doom Patrol is genuinely funny. The enbtire attitude of the program is “hi, we’re super weird and we totally don’t give a shit” perhaps makes all the swearing just, well, part of the fun. Whereas on Titans, the swearing just comes across as “look how edgy and adult we are” and it can feel like it’s just trying to hard to convince the viewer that this is all serious business, that’s why Robin has to say “fuck.”

Look, not to say I didn’t like Titans. I thought it was fine, enjoyable superhero nonsense. Still don’t get that portrayal of Dove…though she and Hawk look perfect, but like I’ve said before, if Dove is supposed to be non-violent like in the comics, they must be grading on a scale compared to everyone else in the show. And the show is super-violent, but at least it’s mostly nicely-shot, easy-to-follow violence that my eged eyes and brain can appreciate.

Anyway, last time I was talking about Swamp Thing I said I was going to try to go into specifics about what I thought went wrong with the show. And…well, beyond rushing the hell through Swamp Thing’s character evolution, I honestly don’t have much to complain about. The one really unnecessary element was likely the Dan Cassidy/Blue Devil stuff, which pains me to say, being a Blue Devil fan since that 16-page preview in that long-ago issue of Firestorm. Just…what did he add to the story, exactly? He saved Abby and Liz at one point, but that could have been handled another way without him. And he was a test subject for Woodrue’s medical shenanigans, I suppose, but aggain, no reason for that to have been specifically that character.

My thought was that they were going to be leading to a contract between Alec Holland being trapped in a body we was tortured by, versus Dan being trapped in Blue Devil’s body, and having a grand ol’ time while doing so. But clearly that’s not what happened, and the truncated nature of the series meant Dan getting his happy ending, free of the curse or whatever after waiting around for years to save Abby that one time, which clearly wasn’t the intended resolution for that arc but that’s what we got. Oh well.

Anyway, I suppose my main complaint was “not enough Swamp Thing doing Swamp Thing stuff,” but that’s generally my complaint about every TV show and movie. It’s the main reason I never watched Friends.

Not even a single Un-Man.

§ August 5th, 2019 § Filed under swamp thing, television § 3 Comments

Near the end of the episode, Abby says to Swamp Thing that she’s fascinated by this new world she’s seeing through her relationship with him, and that she “wants to see more.” And she might as well be talking about the show, because I’m pretty sure most of us would like to see more…more seasons, more episodes, more weirdness from the comics, etc. Of course, Abby also tells Swamp Thing “I’m not going anywhere,” for that extra bit of ironic knife-twisting.

So anyway, that was ten episodes of Swamp Thing we got, cut down from thirteen a while back, and then eventually just plain ‘ol canceled for reasons that have never exactly been nailed down. But whatever the reason…it wasn’t a perfect translation, it had some problems, but overall it was a reasonable translation of the comics that maybe rushed through the concepts a little too quickly, plugged in some strangely irrelevant elements (I like Blue Devil an’ all, but still not sure why he had to be there), but it looked right and by and large, it felt right. And cudos for Swamp Thing being a dude in a costume, and not a CGI effect.

I seem to recall at the time, when word got out they were cutting episodes, that producers were also being told to kinda wrap things up best they can in episode 10. And now that I’ve seen said episode, with the very knowing title “Loose Ends,” it definitely feels like folks desperately trying to put as nice a bow on things as they could while not necessarily preventing continuation of any of the plotlines. Okay, one or two things were a little cliffhanger-y, but what can you do. One final curiosity is the inclusion of a post-credits scene, setting up a conflict for a second season that will never come. No, it’s not Arcane, but you can probably hie yourself hither to the YouTubes and see that scene yourself. It is, at least to me, an unexpected payoff to a character we’ve seen all season. Didn’t think they were going to go for it, but go for it they did.

But that’s as far as it’s going, and it’s too bad. Maybe a little more of the craziness from that final scene may have goosed the series along to survival, if the show’s survival did indeed depend on positive response (whether from viewers or highers-up at Warner Bros.). Like I said, both just above and in the last time I wrote too much about this show, they seemed to plow through Swamp Thing’s evolution from “man become monster” to “nope, just the monster, sorry” with all those cool elemental powers Moore gave him once he was on the comic. With the first season devoted to Swamp Thing accepting his place and his power, the “origin” was effectively over and maybe we could have moved on to just straight-up swamp monster adventure.

I half-joked on the Twitters about a SWAMP THING SEASON TWO comic book, and I would kinda like to see that just to get an idea of what the producers of the show had in mind. I think I read somewhere they had ideas for the next couple of seasons, and if those were presented in comic form, I think that would be interesting.

I mean, it would have been nice to see their idea for Abby’s uncle Arcane, Swamp Thing’s arch-nemesis, beyond that shadowy dream-figure I assumed was him from a past episode. In my last post on the show, I noted that it totally looked like they were going to introduce Arcane via Matt Cable’s car crash, the same way the character was re-introduced in the comics, but nope, big ol’ red herring for comic nerds such as myself. Ah, well, that’s probably all for the best.

So, Swamp Thing…a pretty good show, not a great show, but better than expected and certainly lots of potential for future installments. A shame it ended.

I will note that the DC Universe talk/news show DC Daily did finally start explicitly referring to the end of the series, with even some lamenting that they’re not going to see certain things before the show’s conclusion. I’m not sure they’re going to say anything about why the show is ending, not just because no one else seems to quite know, but I wouldn’t expect a DC promotional program to do that anyway. Probably we’ll get a “sad to see it end,” and that’s it, which is probably as much as we can expect, and rightfully os given the nature of the venue.

I’ll probably have to think a bit if I’m going to get into more specifics about what worked and what didn’t about the show (like getting into the whole Blue Devil thing and the superfluity thereof). Maybe next time. In the meantime…bon voyage, Swampy…better luck in your next live action incarnation. Maybe on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow…c’mon, why not.

Of course I bring “The Death of Superman” into this.

§ July 29th, 2019 § Filed under swamp thing, television § 2 Comments

[SPOILERS ahead for Swamp Thing episode 9, “The Anatomy Lesson”]

So we get a whole lotta stuff goin’ on in the ninth (and penultimate) episode of DC Universe’s streaming Swamp Thing series. Titled “The Anatomy Lesson,” it is very loosely based on the classic Alan Moore/Steve Bissette/John Totleben story of the same name, in which Everything Is Changed and Nothing Will Ever Be The Same.

And, well, that was the case in the comics, least until the whole “Brightest Day”/New 52 stuff happened. That was the story where we learned that Swamp Thing wasn’t a transformed Alec Holland at all, but rather plant life, affected by Holland’s formula, that absorbed his memories and molded itself into a humanoid appearance. All these years thinking he was a human being and seeking a cure for his condition, only to find out there is no cure, this is what he always will be…it was quite the shocking change to the status quo after the then-12 years of this character’s existence.

This is what happens in this episode as well. Swamp Thing, after being brought down in the previous installment (by being frozen, not shot through the head as in the comic, so they missed out on one of the great cliffhangers in funnybook history) is dragged into a secret facility for Dr. Woodrue to examine. Yes, it’s still Woodrue…not the former Justice League “Floronic Man” villain like in the original, but still a Woodrue, cutting Swampy apart in delightfully gross fashion.

In the comic, we learn of the odd nature of Swamp Thing’s inner workings (lungs that don’t process air, a heart that doesn’t beat) as commentary from Woodrue as he’s rooting (heh) though the inert corpse. The TV show makes it…well, weirder, by having Swamp Thing awake, restrained by bonds and a magical Kryptonite-esque light that apparently weakens him somehow. As such, Woodrue tells Swampy to his face just what he’s finding during his biopsy, cutting and slicing into the body as Swampy groans in agony.

Like I said, it’s weird and gross and that’s all fine. But it does pale in comparison to the original on a few points. First, like the various media adaptations of “The Death of Superman,” Superman isn’t really away long enough for the impact of the supposed “death” to really be felt. He was goine in the comics for a while…the Superman series themselves were even briefly suspended. While the comic fans never really believed Superman was dead, the way it played out in the comics couldn’t help but make some small, irrational part of you think “…but what if he is?” The actual physical presentation of the story, with several months of Superman comics without a Superman, and even a brief time without Superman comics, made you feel that loss. Compare to the adaptations, where he dies and comes back in the same film, or he dies and comes back in the very next film…the latter being a slightly better translation of the loss, but still not really the same since it’s not like there were a bunch of Superman movies put out in between where Superman was just dead and buried.

That’s a lot of set-up for my rather minor analogy, in that TV Swamp Thing hadn’t really been around long enough, that we hadn’t really spent enough time invested in his and Abby’s search for a cure, for the Shocking Revelation to have anywhere close to the same impact. I mean, I get it, they probably wanted to get that out of way early so they didn’t spend the next couple of seasons explaining why Alec just didn’t go with Abby to a friendly clinic somewhere to help him. But that reveal hits a lot harder after over a decade’s worth of stories he was a Scientist What Was Done in by Science and trying to find a way out.

And just to say again, leaving out the bit from the comics where Swamp Thing is shot through the head and you’re left to wonder “hokey smokes how’s Alec getting out of this one?” ’til the next issue was a real missed opportunity. I so wanted to hear this iteration of Woodrue declare “you can’t kill a vegetable by shooting it through the head.”

The other big difference is that, since Swamp Thing was never “killed” in the show, we don’t get the comic’s cool revival scene where he grows back, fresh and new, after Woodrue disables the freezer where his body was being kept. And of course we don’t get the reason for that freezer shutdown, which is Woodrue’s elaborate plan to kill his “benefactor,” Avery Sunderland. No screaming Swampy chasing Sunderland through the corriders of his gleaming building, and no final kill. I’m sure they wanted Sunderland around for future seasons of the TV show, which is a moot point now.

A couple of other notes about this episode:

  • Blue Devil finally appears! It’s brief, and Dan Cassidy apparently can change (unwillingly) from human form to Blue Devil form (iinstead of being a dude magically stuck in his costume, which would have made for an interesting comparison to Swampy). Let’s see how this plays out in the future (“checks notes”) one episode.

    However I suggested on the Twitterers that maybe they can replace the Swamp Thing show with a Blue Devil show, and have Swamp Thing’s plots transfer over to that for continuation. DC is free to use my brilliant idea.

  • Another Marty Pasko-era supporting character turns up, this time Dennis Barclay as a doctor from a mental health institution. No connection to Liz Tremayne, like in the comics, but who knows? Probably not us, ever.
  • As a payoff to the “you were never Alec Holland” plot, we do get a reenactment of this cover to issue #28:

    …as Swamp Thing hauls Holland’s corpse out of the murky waters. Another version of this same cover was used in promotional material, but with Swampy holding a more skeletal body, like in the original, versus the slightly more enfleshed one we see in the episode. Anyway, it was nice to see this classic Swamp Pietà actually used in the narrative.

  • The big thing in this episode is that Officer Matt Cable gets in a car wreck…which, if you’ve read your Swamp Thing, like I knoq I have, then you know this is what leads to the return of Anton Arcane, Swamp Thing’s arch-enemy. Arcane, escaped from Hell following his death in his last match-up with our mossy hero, possesses Cable’s body and and wreaks some havoc, as is his wont.

    Of course, we haven’t had that Arcane in the series yet (despite all my crazy talk last time), though we may have seen him in that nightmare/flashback/vision thingie Abby had a few episodes ago…a cloaked figure obscured by the darknbess dragging Abby through the swamp. Now, in the TV show, that Arcane may also be long dead and could come back in Cable’s body, or some other ghost or dark spirit from the swamp could take him over. I don’t know, it’s all speculation, but we’ll see what they do with it next week. And only next week.

And that’s almost that. Unless some miracle happens, or a rich benefactor with the initials “M.S.” donates a hefty sum to Warner Bros. with the caveat that more episodes of Swamp Thing get produced, we’re just about at the end of the line. It looks like we have a few pretty significant plot developments that will have to get tied up next time, probably not in a terribly satisfactory fashion…but it was nice having a reasonably well-done Swamp Thing TV show while it lasted. But perhaps I’ll save the eulogy for next time…though I suppose I’ve been eulogizing it since the start.

“This popular pet is the number one threat to your comic book collection!”

§ July 22nd, 2019 § Filed under death of superman, retailing, television § 4 Comments

So over thge years I have heard many, many times from folks who wanted to sell me comics that the items they were offering were “in mint condition, still in their bags.” And of course, while a comic bag certainly does offer better protection for the funnybook contained within than no bag at all, it’s obviously no protection from bending, stabbing, being set on fire, being chewed on by the pet llama, whathaveyou. (And no, even the addition of a backing board to your comic’s security may not be enough to help.) I’d say the vast majority of comics I’ve received “still in their bags” are nowhere close to mint.

Basically, what I’m saying is that it takes more than just sliding a comic into a bag and/or board to preserve its condition. It takes proper handling, storage, and distance from the previously mentioned pet llama. You can keep a comic inside a bag all you’d like, but that’s not a bulletproof container. And it’s not going to magicallly undo whatever damage you did to it prior to its placement in a bag.

This is all a roundabout way to talking about the comics pictured above, Superman #75 and Adventures of Supermnan #500 (and, by extension, other comics packaged by the publisher inside sealed opaque polybags like these). When it comes to pricing/grading these for in-store sale, there’s no real way to gauge the condition of the comic therein if the polybag is still sealed and, from all appearances, still new-looking and intact.

Emphasis on “looking.” Like the standard clear plastic bags used for comic storage, these polybags won’t protect from bending or creasing or the like, but if they are sealed, you aren’t going to be able to directly check the comic for any damage done. I mean, you can kind of feel along the spine and maybe along parts of the cover (working around the various trading card and poster inserts and such, of course) and determine if there is any phyiscal harm. But, again, without visual confirmation, it’s hard to nail down a grade.

So long as the exterior of the bag looks new, and if the item is sealed (and no damage is immediately detectable within the package) I generally just mark these as “MINT – SEALED.” In a way, it’s like Schrödinger’s Comic…so long as that polybag stays sealed, we have no exact idea what’s going on in there. It’s not ’til we open it up that the reality is solidified and we get a comic that’s, I don’t know, actually in FVF or whatever.

Now it’s possible the polybags themselves could do harm to the comics inside eventually. I’m pretty sure that’s not archival material used in the packaging, there, but on the other hand…I opened my personal copies of these when they were new, and just kept everything, comics and inserts and all, still inside those opened polybags and then inside one of your standard comic bags…and far as I can tell, no damage done by those wrappings yet. And if you remember that overflowing case of Adventures #500 I got a while back…people who’ve bought copies of thoese from me and opened ’em up didn’t find any problems.

If you’re really concerned, I guess you can just store the comic and its polybag in separate bags. As I somewhat recall, in the ’90s during the real heyday of publishers prepacking their comics in bags with goodies like trading cards and pogs and such, the price guides, of which there were many at the time, had to set down rules as to what would preserve the collectibility of these items. I think it was Overstreet which put its nickel down on the comic still being considered “mint” or whatever so long as the opened bag and contents were all present. And I think our attitude at the shop at the time was “okay, fine, but sealed copies are still going to sell for more than opened copies,” and lo, it is still true to this day. I don’t have my current copy of Ovewrstreet right in front of me to see if they still hold that position, if in fact it was them.

Anyway, just something I think about every time I get these in collections and have to price ’em up. I’ve written before, somewhere and at some point, about how a lot of those Superman #75s were purchased by folks who didn’t normally collect comics, so I suspect a large number of them had been stored improperly and damaged, or just outright discarded, over the years. There may not be as many sealed copies of this still around as we assume, so getting them at all is welcome. And they do still sell.

• • •

In some brief non-Death of Superman news, it was announced over the weekend that the DC Universe streaming service’s Doom Patrol series has been renewed for a season 2, to be produced in conjunction with Warner’s forthcoming streaming service HBO Max. The story says the new season will show simultaneously on both services, so that, along with the news of the DC Universe exclusive Young Justice series also getting a renewal, that this streaming channel will continue to be its own thing. The fear was that DC Universe would be folded into the HBO Max service, and sure, that could still happen eventually, but it looks like it’s still operating on its own for now.

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