Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"It's Superman's Cousin's Show! Starring Superman's Cousin!"

A live-action Supergirl TV series is in development for the CBS network, which is interesting, because her comics are a mixed bag. Rather tellingly, DC Comics never printed a Greatest Supergirl Stories Ever Told reprint collection, but they have with Batgirl, Green Lantern, even Captain Marvel (!), who can only be reffered to as Shazzam nowadays because Marvel Comics wouldn't like that. For a long time ( and I'm making a long story short ), Supergirl couldn't even be Superman's cousin! Oh, she could be the shape-shifting clone of Lana Lang who assumed the identity of an insane goth girl named Linda Danvers and later develop new powers and complications that made her "Supergirl" in name only that were relevant in the wake of pop culture trends like The X-Files and Buffy, The Vampire Slayer...but it wasn't Supergirl.

Honestly, I predict a Supergirl TV show  will ignore the comics for the most part, which I believe is the formula that's made recent series like Arrow and The Flash successful - both have very little in common with the source material at all, even Gotham, which claims to draw inspiration from bits and bobs of Batman comics, but is really evolving into a Game of Thrones-style series about the origin of Batman, his supporting cast and rogues gallery as they converge in Gotham City. And Batman is in it - as young Bruce Wayne, who is portrayed as an armchair detective of sorts. Again, there are no callbacks to any specific comics; anyone who believes so is trying to reach hard.

So I doubt Supergirl will be based on any comics. Her characterization will probably depend on whoever is cast in the role, too. A fanpage devoted to the character on Facebook characterized her as a "warrior princess"...where did THAT come from?  As for villains?  They could lean on the Superman rogues gallery for villains least-likely to appear in the films, like Livewire, The Prankster, Mr. Mxyzptlk, etc..and Reactron - the only rogue I remember from her comics. Ambush Bug might show up (because he appeared in her comic once), possibly Granny Goodness and the Furies will be big players...maybe Kara will take up roller-hockey or join a rock band, becoming a Riot Girls-esque hipster - who knows? Maybe Batgirl will show up to set up a spin-off series?

If I had to imagine a premise for this character...I would say that instead of arriving on Earth after the destruction of Krypton, her rocketship/escape pod landed on the future Earth of The Legion of Superheroes and...having spent a brief, yet significant time as a member of the Legion, time travels to present-day Earth to check up on Superman and perhaps save the Earth, but ultimately decides to stay. So...we've got a Supergirl who was a ring-bearing member of the Legion (and also a former member of the Red Lanterns) but is new to Earth. That's a sketchy outline for a pilot, but I see this character as someone who is.. a nice, but relatively aloof foreign exchange student arriving in a new place.

Meanwhile, there's cool art from fans, professional fan-favorite artists and cosplayers on the internet..I particularly like model/cosplayer Enji Night's Supergirl and the cape-hoodie combination design on one illustration...but then, I selected all of these pictures for this post, so of course I like them all! Enjoy!

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Apocryphal Scrooge McDuck, Part 3

In this installment, I recall Donald and His Friends, which sounds like a serviceable title for a Disney coloring book marked $1.49 at a 99 cent store, but is actually the title of an oversize, fully-illustrated storybook from 1988. I suspect this book is a reprint and the original title was "Happy Birthday, Donald Duck!" or "Donald's Amazing Birthday Party" to coincide with the character's 50th birthday a few years prior. I still own a copy of "Happy Birthday, Bugs!", an oversize storybook published to coincide with Bugs Bunny's 50th birthday, but I don't know if that was ever reprinted as "Bugs and His Friends", which would be darkly ironic, since the "surprise party" depicted in that book devolved into a revenge plot after all the guests (all made up of Bugs' antagonists) recalled the many times the Wabbit had made fools of them.

Anyway...you didn't click on this article to read about Bugs Bunny - you want to know what makes Donald and His Friends count as an "apocryphal" Scrooge McDuck duck-tale. Okay. This book was special because it featured an all-star cast of Disney characters from the films and comic books, including an unnamed character who resembles Ellsworth the crow, who is virtually unknown to audiences in the USA, but audiences overseas might've recognized him, which led me to believe this book was indeed a reprint,  yet I wasn't able to prove that when I did an online search.

The plot could've been adapted as an episode of Disney's House of Mouse. It begins with Donald alone in his house,  dozing off on the couch after completing household chores,  when a knock on the door wakes him up. The guests begin to arrive. First Daisy shows up. Huey, Dewey and Louie show up. Goofy shows up (dressed as Donald's present - less messy than jumping out of a cake, I presume), then Pluto, Mickey and Minnie Mouse arrive. Mickey's "gift" is a magic show featuring a magic top hat that functions like a backwards nesting doll - characters from the Disney films appear from inside and begin to pop out: Alice, Peter Pan, then Merlin the wizard, who magically makes an enormous gift box appear, which has a massive birthday cake inside, from which two of the Disney Princesses appear - Snow White and Cinderella. Cinderelly's gift is a pumpkin that turns into a roadster that resembles Donald's Belchfire Runabout car that Carl Barks created for the comics, but with the color scheme resembling the "flying" version used by Donald in the Paperinik/Duck Avenger stories. I particularly liked the interesting, surreal, Dr. Seuss-ian escalation in the presentation of the characters and gifts - this wouldn't have been impressive as a teensy Little Golden Book, but works better with this format, which resembles the size presented for Seuss's longer stories, like Happy Birthday To You! and And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street, but it's inspiration most likely came from the Disney film The Three Caballeros, which also featured a birthday celebration for Donald Duck with a similar display of flamboyant character entrances.

The tone shifts when Scrooge arrives, unfashionably late, claiming to have been mugged, his "gift" for Donald stolen. Once it appears everyone present at the party would rather believe McDuck came to wolf down some free birthday cake...the most unforgettable moment in the book happens: Scrooge throws a fit.

Actually, the book describes him flying into "a rage", but I'm inclined to believe this was Scrooge's aria: he starts to trash Donald's house! Throwing gifts and anything not nailed down! The unfortunate thing about this book is that the destructive rampage is illustrated sparingly within the space of a few pages, offering ONE tantalizing image of the destruction capturing my imagination and staying in my head from the moment I first read it...A group of party crashers wind up bearing the brunt of McDuck's quack attack...and this group is made up of a sampling of the finest representatives of evil in the Disney films: Maleficent, Mad Madam Mim, Cruella de Vil, Medusa and the queen from Snow White, who was unnamed,  but because of the Disney-owned TV series Once Upon A Time is now known as Regina Mills or Queen Regina. It is truly a beautiful illustration, which brings up the sad point that the artist and writer of this book were uncredited and are unknown.

After the crones flee, the seven dwarves entertain rhe partygoers with music. Donald dances with Snow White.  Goofy and Clarabelle Cow dance the tango. Huey, Dewey and Louie follow up on the entertainment by showing a short cartoon  about Pluto chasing Ellsworth, who leads him to a surprise party held for the dog.

Then Gladstone Gander shows up. I think this is the first of only two appearances Gladstone has made in any of the Disney storybooks - the other appearance was in Donald Duck: Some Ducks Have All The Luck, a Little Golden Book. After presenting Donald with a gift that resembles an enormous perfume bottle (with an assist from an unnamed valet bearing a canny resemblance to Timothy Mouse from "Dumbo"), Gladstone recalls the bizarre gift he received from Scrooge on his birthday: a tiny, malfunctioning hourglass.  Gladstone gets revenge by claiming the hourglass was a lucky talisman, which makes Scrooge insist on buying it back, only to learn the hard way that he'd been had by his nephew. Then Chip & Dale show up at Donald's house with a surprise: they found Scrooge's gift for Donald - the hourglass he had bought back from Gladstone!  It's not implied in the text that Scrooge might have thought twice about his re-gifting strategy while on his way to Donald's house, decided it was a bad idea and ditched the hourglass while offering the story about being mugged as a cover for showing up empty-handed, but the artist's rendition of his face immediately after the denouement could imply that was what happened.

After that punchline, Donald offers his surprise for the guests: a fireworks show in his backyard, which becomes calamitous after Goify's pants catch fire from some stray sparks and is left standing in his boxers, but otherwise the party ends with everyone enjoying the festivities and Donald looking forward to next year's birthday party.

This book stood out because it was the only original story among a series of books that featured storybook adaptations of classic Disney animated films. The endpapers of the book show Scrooge in character as Ebeneezer Scrooge in Mickey's Christmas Carol amongst a large display of Disney characters, so a book adaptation of that film was also offered at some point. I remember they were displayed on a large table at Barnes & Noble - not unlike the way books featuring Disney characters are often displayed at bookstores,  though I've never seen this book offered again, which is sad, because it was very good. The uncredited illustrator didn't take advantage of the format to do anything ambitious (perhaps there was a plan to keep this book in print on various size formats at one point), which hints this was something cranked out, albeit well done, since the uncredited writer was clearly having fun dreaming up a surreal experience. Both contributors rose to the occasion with that cameo by the Disney villains.  It's definitely worth looking out for.

Here's a clue about the next installment of The Apocryphal Scrooge McDuck:

When is a "cameo guest star" not guest-starring at all? :)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Magrs Method of Book Reporting: "Comic Wars: How Two Tycoons Battled Over The Marvel Comics Empire - And Both Lost" by Dan Raviv

Encapsulate the plot of this book in one sentence?
The financial woes in the 1990s of Marvel Entertainment Group - the corporate entity behind Marvel Comics - is explained.
When was this book published?
2002. This was a 1st edition hardcover in great shape that I bought at a comic shop for 5 bucks.
What's your verdict?
I remember reading a library copy of this book around the time of it's release;  obviously, it's past its sell-by-date, because Marvel's fortunes have improved: it's part of the Walt Disney Company, it's film adaptations of their comics are box office smashes ( some more than others, to be honest )...who cares that it was faring poorly in the 90s? The past is dead!
...
I found it interesting that none of the financial wizards fighting for control of the company were into comics* - and that's why I found this book hard to enjoy: the author tried to make the events surrounding Marvel's leadership woes into a Wall Street/Wolf of Wall Street - esque caper, but there was no real hustle or careers at stake; sure, people got laid off, but the principals in this escapade - Ronald Perelman, Carl Icahn, Ike Perlmutter and Avi Arad - were never at risk of losing their fortunes and being put out on the street; this was all part of the game - Marvel Comics was just a pawn on a large chessboard.
The book reveals that Perelman was only interested in acquiring Marvel because of it's potential as a character licensing company, putting the characters on films, TV series and merchandise;  when he learned, after buying the company, that the merchandising, film and television rights were already tied up, he began using the company as a platform for selling junk bonds and acquiring other companies that could correspond with Marvel's product licensing. There was nothing wrong with that - hoarding companies is a common practice.  Is it a good idea? Well, you end up forming a conglomerate when you do that, and any failure within the conglomerate can create a domino effect that can bring it down to its knees. Perelman acquired the trading card companies Fleer and Skybox,  the sticker company Panini, the distribution company Heroes World, and small-time rival Malibu Comics Entertainment ( only, the book reveals,  because that company had developed a computer coloring system that could be run twenty-four hours a day for faster production ), and a controlling interest in a toy company, Toy Biz, which meant Marvel now had a stake in the toy-making industry.
And the comics were not selling well.
HOWEVER...
The book strongly implies that the company would've been headed for bankruptcy even if their comics sold well. The cause of Marvel's bankruptcy had nothing to do with overprintings of X-Men#1 and bad Spider-Man comics ( and depending on who you're asking, they're still making awful comics with those characters ).
Perelman's initial goal to push Marvel into licensing was actually a good idea - they've been doing it for the past decade, even beginning aggressive campaigns to get back the film rights to characters/franchises that were sold to other studios. This book is really an artefact representing a finger-pointing attitude people held during the late-1990s, when they were looking for someone to blame for why the medium almost died.
Do you plan to keep this book?
I'm not sure - it is like one of those old gimmick comic books from the 80s and 90s that promoted an event that was eventually revised and negated a decade later - it's claiming everything Perelman did was wrong, yet the current owners are doing the same thing, so it's okay, right? ...
Or perhaps there's gonna be a Crisis...
Can you give us a good quote?
Sure. Check out the gallery below.
*actually, Avi Arad comes off as the only figure in the debacle who COULD have feelings about the source material behind the toys, t-shirts, video games and screenplays being cranked out, which explains why he is a major player in Marvel's current corporate hierarchy - after all, SOMEBODY in that boardroom has got to know what a "Spider-Man" is!