Saturday, April 16, 2016

Art Therapy: "Batman: Hush" Coloring Book (Part 13, 14, 15 & 16 of 104)

Ah...

Four pages!

Killer Croc!

Showdown at sunset!

Rust!

New crayons!

Then back to using the old crayons! (The new crayons - which I brought because they were "jumbo-sized" and figured that would be a relief when coloring backgrounds - wound up being awful; they would break up and file away like rubber erasers, then leave behind smears on my hands and crumbs on the pages! So I went back to the Crayolas...stick to making Mr. Potato Head toys, please, Playskool.)

Incidentally, I noticed in a recent Comic Shop News a criticism of DC Comics repri ting their comics into Adult Coloring Books as part of CSN's annual Red K Awards, citing that these books do not meet the standard of a proper coloring book done by a true coloring book artist.

I've never heard something so boring (aside from negative reviews of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice). Who gives a flying fortress? It's a coloring book! There's criteria for a coloring book? Do me a favor..do me a favor...grab the issue of CSN with your opinion, sir...use it to clean up after yourself when you've finished letting the horses out of the barn.

Four down...more to go...

Monday, April 11, 2016

"Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice" ☆☆☆☆☆ (Review)

Spoilers ahead...

I  saw this movie last week and enjoyed it.

...

I am completely baffled by the intense dislike of this film by the critics. Were Marvel Studios' efforts akin to the works of Shakespeare, Poe, Faulkner, Cervantes, Fitzgerald, Salinger, Dorothy Parker and Guy De Maupassant? Is there a bias?

I didn't find this film "dark", "boring", "depressing", "overlong" or "stupid". If you've been actually reading DC's superhero comics anytime within the last 3 or 4 decades, it's very faithful to the source. But it's not the funeral dirge that it's been likened to. These characters are not comedians, nor are they TV show characters making TV series-style quips; if they did make cracks, it would be in relation to real things as they happen (for ex: the "Is she with you?" "I  thought she was with you!" bit in the film).

Maybe it's a conditioned response. This movie had a four year buildup; sixteen years if you count the initial mention of a Batman vs. Superman film pitch that would've been directed by Wolfgang Peterson - this was during a fallow period when the Batman film franchise was thought to be dead after Batman and Robin and different ideas for a revival were tossed around Hollywood, including a live-action Batman Beyond and a Batman: Year One adaptation that Frank Miller and Darren Aronovsky developed. The Superman/Batman comic book from 2003, a revival of World's Finest, was obviously launched in anticipation of this movie (a reprint of the first issue was offered as a free giveaway comic to coincide with the premiere; DC went out of there way to revise the title credit page to add Bill Finger's name, in keeping with current tradition).

So, with the long wait, who can expect good reviews from critics, podcasters and bloggers who say things like: "I got a bad feeling about the choices Warner Brothers is making with this movie", "I don't really have high hopes for this film", "Zack Snyder is the worst choice for this movie"...with that attitude, you cannot possibly be engaged, you are stuck with the idea that you are watching a disaster.

All I feel I can really say is that I liked it..and I'm glad I didn't follow the bad reviews, otherwise I would've missed out on an entertaining launch that I hope won't be derailed. Yes, it is a sequel to Man of Steel. Yes, Jimmy Olsen gets killed within the first 15 minutes.* But this film is far superior to Man of Steel. It's short on jokes about underoos and flippant references to ancient video games and doesn't rely on cheap heat by sampling pop songs. And the bonus scenes that Marvel Studios usually saves for after the credits are offered before the third act, instead (enough bonus scenes for 4 separate movies, to be speciffic). And maybe the funeral scene at the end could've been shortened by a minute (and is the act of a hand bursting through a coffin exclusive to only vampires & zombies, but not heroes? Why couldn't we see a stronger image of Superman coming back from the dead? Or am I tapping into touchy subject matter?).

You know what? This film was cool. Go see it. I had fun. The people who hated this movie can go take their reviews and wipe their asses with them. Ben Affleck is a great Batman. Henry Cavil has gotten more comfortable as Superman. Gal Godat is a fantastic Wonder Woman. Amy Adams is kind of bland as Lois, though her scenes with Cavil are good. Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor may get his mannerisms and wardrobe choices from Heath Ledger's Joker, but make no mistake, beneath the affectations, this is the manipulative, Machiavellian, egocentric meglomaniac of the modern age comics, so it's very entertaining to see how the two incarnations of Luthor manage to mesh well.

Enough. Go see it.

*DC Comics had a "Jimmy Olsen Must Die!" lapel pin made available at one point; he must've grated on people over the last 77 years.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Art Therapy: "Batman: Hush" Coloring Book (Part 10, 11 and 12 of 104)

April showers..bring coloring book pages. Witness the wealthy man from Gotham in grey and blue rescue an unrelatable kidnapped effete cipher schoolboy from the clutches of working poor mercenaries gone broke from buying gaudy licensed apparel...in a swirl of pink and orange smoke??

Yeah..much like the corridors, smoke is kind of boring on a coloring book page..then I recall the colorful smoke bombs used in the old Adam West Batman show and rolled with it!

3 down..more to go..

Friday, April 1, 2016

#Top5ComicBooks of 2015 #1: "Amazing Spider-Man #1", Vol. 4

When I was a kid, I always thought Spider-Man was a rich guy. Those gadgets must cost serious money..no way could he afford an apartment (albeit a crappy one) in NYC by taking pictures of himself in costume for millionaire cheapskate J. Jonah Jameson; he'd be better-off shaking down tourists for tips after posing for free photos on Times Square with the other shabbily-dressed cosplayers. Plus, the toys always showed he owned a multitude of vehicles at his disposal - cars, motorcycles, jetplanes, helicopters..and he lives in Forest Hills!! Peter Parker, you rich, boy.

Let's be honest...Spider-Man was always a miserable read. Who gives this book to children? A guy who can't win because his life is doomed. Why can't he win? Why is Parker plagued with bad luck? Because he sucks. He was a sap..perhaps he is destined to remain a sap. At least he's a rich sap now. Money buys time, money pays bills, money pays ideas forward...better to have money and be a guy who inadvertently killed his girlfriend and got his marriage annulled by the Devil so that his 90-year-old Aunt could continue preparing meals for him than a guy with dick in the bank who inadvertently killed his girlfriend and got his marriage annulled by the Devil so that his 90-year-old Aunt could continue preparing meals for him...let him play Ted Kord for a while.

And a happy April Fools Day to everyone. :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Art Therapy: "Batman: Hush" Coloring Book (Part 8 AND 9 of 104)

A double-page spread? Should I count it as one? Well, if both upload correctly, then yes. If not, then the numbering stands.

I think my mind is made up on using yellow crayon for Batman's 1st person narration. And I got bored with having to color the clothing on the kidnappers, so I decided that last guy buys his wardrobe from the section at Target/Kmart/Walmart that has licensed character apparel.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Art Therapy: "Batman: Hush" Coloring Book (Part 7 of 104)

Details, details, details..close-ups of Batman's gloves and boots...I'm starting to make choices about things like backgrounds and narration boxes..and my choices are that, subconsciously, I must've been a huge fan of 1990s Batman comic Shadow of The Bat.

Another one down..more to go...

Monday, March 21, 2016

Dini, Deconstructed.

When you're a fan of a popular writer, you look for patterns, links, themes - elements that identify either why this writer's work strikes a chord or what distinguishes his/her work from efforts made by other authors.

When Paul Dini's new graphic novel, Dark Knight: A True Batman Story arrives in June, I'd like to be free to devote the eventual review to the book itself. This post is devoted to me having fun with the idea that the events described in the book may have changed Paul's approach to writing Batman as a character. So, yes, this is a companion to my previous post "Dini's Dark Night". So..as awkward as it is to post a long essay revolving around a book that has yet to see the light of day and that I have yet to read...well, welcome to the internet.

With my copy of the classic coffeetable book, Batman: Animated, I did some unscientific research:

Paul Dini is credited with writing 30 episodes of Batman: The Animated Series. The show lasted five seasons, give or take breaks in production, title changes, network changes, even changes in the character designs. Here's a rough breakdown -

# of episodes of Batman: The Animated Series: 14

# of episodes credited solo: 12
# of episodes with co-writer/story credit: 2

# of episodes of The New Adventures of Batman and Robin: 9

# of episodes credited solo: 3
# of episodes with co-writer/story credit: 6

# of episodes of Batman: Gotham Knights/The Batman/Superman Adventures: 7

# of episodes credited solo: 3
# of episodes with co-writer/story credit: 4

Total: 18 episodes (solo), 12 episodes (co-writer/story credit)

At a glance, Paul's output was highest in the series early years, but one must take into account that he had also become a story editor during the GK/BSA era, while also working on Superman: The Animated Series AND the first season of Batman Beyond, as well as beginning to make his mark writing comic books after the success of Mad Love.

Getting back to the time period of Dark Night, I'm going to suppose the episodes produced under the New Adventures of Batman and Robin and the episodes of Batman: The Animated Series were made in the aftermath. Prior to this, all of Paul's early scripts focused on the villains: Heart of Ice, Mad As A Hatter, Almost Got 'Im, The Mad Who Killed Batman are some examples, with Batman appearing on the periphery. This wasn't unusual, since there were a lot of episodes of the series that were Batman-centric by other writers. Ironically, or unironically (is that a real world), these episodes rank among the most-acclaimed of the show's run.

Other episodes were romps - Joker's Wild, Harley & Ivy - or noir stories like Pretty Poison (which he submitted story ideas for) The Laughing Fish ( a re-imagining of two fan-favorite 70's Batman comic book stories into a single plot) and Joker's Favor, with the debut of Harley Quin, who is quickly rivaling Joker for the position of most-popular Batman foe, possibly beating Catwoman as most-popular female Bat-villain.

The only exception to this theme was Zatanna. Paul introduced the superpowered magician Zatanna to the series as an old flame from Batman's past - a romance that had not existed in the comics; barring a single issue of The Brave and The Bold from the early-80's by Mike W. Barr in which they teamed up for an adventure, there was relatively little/no known interaction of note between those two characters, not even when they both appeared in Justice League of America. From here on, this ret-con is slowly incorporated into the comic books and becomes canon when Dini became regular writer on Detective Comics and Zatanna's short-lived solo comic book  series. In animation, this clever pairing is only revisited on two occasions, both in scripts Dini wrote for different series: "This Little Piggy" in Justice League Unlimited and "Chill of The Night" in Batman: The Brave and The Bold.

The airdate for Zatanna was February 2, 1993, one month after the events described in Dark Night. The next episode of B:TAS to air was "The Worry Men", followed by "House and Garden", "Trial" and "Harlequinade", the last of Paul's episodes to appear under the B:TAS title (although reruns of the later episodes would revive it, since the Superman episodes aired separately in reruns). "Trial" is especially relevant to this discussion, since it's the first of Paul's scripts to comment directly on Batman's effectiveness as a vigilante/superhero and his dealings with his rogues gallery. In fact, in this last group of B:TAS episodes, and all of Paul's episodes afterward, Batman has more to say, or is more inclined to make time to comment directly on what's happening. This is when Paul starts offering memorable exchanges between our hero and his supporting cast/villains, like the "I can remember what it's like to have had a bad day" moment in "Harley's Holiday".  In interviews from the past and present, Dini describes Batman's presence as an idea or force of nature, but it appears he can also exist as a human being capable of empathy. In Paul's words, he became more "..circumspect". In that regard, I believe this readjustment made his work with the character, impressive as it was, even stronger, because now we're getting a more fully-realized Batman, rather than a force that other characters reacted to. And while it's macabre to postulate that a traumatic incident became an inspiration - and I don't want to give that a lot of credit - but maybe it underpinned/informed/unleashed some element that was always there, a finishing stroke that hadn't been brought to the surface.

It's like the Fatman (Kevin Smith) said: if there was a Mount Rushmore devoted the top 4 guys that truly defined Batman for the masses, the guys that identified a Batman that's loved by all...Paul's face would be up there.

And he also gave us Bat-Duck in Tiny Toon Adventures. I'm not being snarky; honestly and sincerely, Bat-Duck should've had his own show; that was gold. :)