Dec 23, 2007

The best Batman movie ever.

I wrote this fairly lengthy email to a friend of mine in response to the new Dark Knight trailer. Now most of you know I don't like Batman Begins, not because it's a bad movie, but because it's a bad Batman movie. I'm a purist that way.

Anyway, I thought what I wrote was fairly funny, and fun to share with the rest of you.

...let me just say that Heath Ledger might play a good villain in that movie he's in, but the villain he's playing is not the Joker, just like the ninja Christian Bale is playing is not Batman. Unless you mean Frank Miller Joker and Batman, in which case Batman is a sadistic torturer and the Joker is this psychopath who's calm, collected, and in love with Batman in this sick, twisted way.

The best Batman live action movie ever is the Adam West one. That one's entertaining from beginning to end and never bores. And the best Joker ever was Frank Gorshin, who played the Riddler, but he was a better Joker than everyone but Mark Hammill's voice. Ironically, the other "Best Joker Ever" was Jim Carrey, who also played the Riddler. While Nicholson's version was fun, it was really more just Nicholson being insane rather than Nicholson playing the Joker - Jim Carrey got him right though. Still nowhere near Frank Gorshin, though. RIP Frank, we miss you:

Anyway, Batman and Robin get called out to sea on an emergency. They take the Batcopter, which is this regular helicopter with a Bat on the window, and then fly out to the middle of the sea, where this giant rubber shark attacks Batman as he's climbing down the Bat-ladder, which is just a rope ladder. The giant rubber shark which is not meant to be rubber bites Batman's leg, and Batman yells to Robin to get the Bat-shark-repellent. Robin pulls it out of a case of all kinds of repellents, including mongoose repellents, whale repellents, yada yada yada. Now keep in mind - they're in a fucking helicopter. Why the fuck would they be carrying shark repellent? So Robin climbs down the rope ladder ever so slowly, and, for drama's sake, decides to HANG UPSIDE DOWN the lowest rung he can, where giving the Bat Shark repellent to Bruce is JUUUUUST far enough that it's still dramatic. Bruce then uses the repellent on the giant rubber shark, which then explodes. Let me say that again - the giant rubber shark. explodes.

SO, Bruce and Dick go to Commissioner Gordon's office, where Commissioner Gordon informs him that there are four criminals loose from jail: The Joker, the Riddler, the Penguin, and the Catwoman, who was for some reason not played by Julie Newmar, but Lee Meriwether. Now they're trying to figure out who set Batman up for the exploding shark. Commissioner Gordon, idiot savant that he is, says, "Which one.... which ones?"

Batman, since he's Batman and he knows everything, does a pun and says, "Pretty FISHY what happened to me on that ladder."

Commissioner Gordon jumps to conclusions, which happens to be the right one, and says, "You mean where there's a fish, there might be a Penguin!"

Robin then chimes in with one of the most illogical leaps I've ever seen in ANY movie, comic book or otherwise, with, "But it happened at sea! Sea? C for Catwoman!"

Batman then jumps to another marvelous piece of deductive reasoning, and says, "That shark... was PULLING MY LEG!"

Gordon, being Gordon, says, "The Joker!" as if none of us got it.

This is where Chief O'Hara, most useless police officer in all of TV history and the single character introduced in a comic-related franchise that has never made it to an actual comic book and that I really really really want to see introduced in an actual comic book, comes in with the line of the night, and says, "It all adds up to one sinister riddle. r. Riddle. r. THE RIDDLER!"

Now are you kidding me?? That shit is genius! Best Batman movie ever. Only Batman movie that could keep me entertained over and over and over again. There's this one scene where Bruce practically COMES HIS PANTS, and if I could make my own Batman movie, it'd be a remake of Adam West's tv series, except I'll pay the obligatory tribute to Frank Miller, and have Adam West call himself the Goddamn Batman. Can you fucking imagine that?? Imagine tubby guy who's supposed to be Adam West in this cloth suit and cowl that shows off his belly, dancing the Batusi, saying, "Are you retarded? Are you dense? Who the fuck do you think I am? I'm the goddamn Batman!"

Or better yet, the G-rated version:

Anyway, I might see that stupid movie anyway if someone drags me to it (which the kid most likely will, and he'd probably make me choose between that and Iron Man, and everyone knows I hate Iron Man almost as much as I hate Frank Miller), and just pretend I'm watching a ninja fight a dude with horrible make-up. Good lord, these guys can't do make-up right. First they have the Scarecrow looking much scarier without the mask, then they do the single most uncreative Ra's Al Ghul (And it's RAYSH, not RAAAAZZZ) ever, and now they have the single worst Joker I've seen in history, with the possible exception of Cesar Romero, and that's only because you could see his mustache through the make up. I want the Joker whom, when I ask my nephew who the single most dangerous villain in the DC universe is, and who he actually worries for the heroes when he walks into the room is, that's his answer.

Will Heath Ledger do the impossible and surprise me? It's highly unlikely, but it's possible.

Like my man says, it's all about how you shuffle the deck.

Oct 15, 2007

A rebuttal.

Rob Liefeld, the most controversial artist in the comic book industry, has just bashed Alan Moore, the industry's greatest living writer (even Stan Lee says so... kinda.) in this interview.

I'm going to copy and paste the interview now, and annotate it with my reactions in red. This'll be like a letter to Rob.


Rob Liefeld shoots on Alan Moore

“This could be an entire other article, sell this to Wizard magazine, 'Rob Liefeld goes after Alan Moore'” -- Rob Liefeld, during our interview for this week's cover. Since I don't work for Wizard, and this particular tangent didn't make it into the paper, you're gonna get it here, because it's just too good not to share: the “controversial” artist talking some smack on one of comicdom's most acclaimed writers, creator of Watchmen and V for Vendetta among many others... It seems to me the writer of this article knew exactly the reaction this would get.

“Alan Moore – he just did his own thing. We just stayed out of his way. He had written a miniseries for us called Badrock/ the time, Alan was doing purposefully campy, over-the-top kinda stuff. We loved the few stories he had done for Superman, and I’m not stupid so we just got out of the way [writing Liefeld's SUPREME] and let him roll.” Stayed out of his way? I'd hardly call publishing his raw, unedited, clearly-not-intended-to-be-seen proposals for Glory or Youngblood staying out of his way. Moreso, I don't really think finishing his last, unfinished issue of Youngblood and publishing it with a different artist and a ghost writer is staying out of his way. And even moreso, I really don't think injecting yourself into the last issue of Supreme or drawing the framing sequence for Judgment Day when you were clearly incapable (your anatomy is wrong, as usual, and you skipped out on the backgrounds, again, and, well... just look at it. Just... look at it.)
“We didn’t get the right artist for him until about ten issues in, then the second year, they put together a great run. No, you didn't. Because God forbid you do your job as the editor and publisher and actually get him the right artist. In your bullpen that had Chris Sprouse, Rick Veitch, Steve Skroce, Ian Churchill, and Brandon Peterson, you - YOU - picked Joe Bennett, and stuck with him. That 24 issues was as well –received a comic as you’re gonna find, I still meet people who are like, wow, that was great, but we had no input. That was Alan. And to me, honestly, that was Alan’s last great stuff. Promethea, Top Ten, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Greyshirt were all as great or greater than Supreme. I have friends I have gotten into comics because of the first three. They brought in new readers. Supreme would not have done that. Because when Awesome, my main investor went belly up --my investor had a video game company, a recording company, and a comic book company, and overnight, they were all gone -- and Alan, I think had really dug what he was doing with us, because by then he’d expanded it from Supreme to Youngblood, to Glory...I still have all his original proposals, they’re a riot, dude. He’s definitely taking archetypes and doing the Alan Moore version... Yes. That much was obvious. That's why people bought them, Rob. That's why they were acclaimed. And that's why, if you were smart enough and kept him on board, you would've put together a really good comic book company. I called him up one time and said, 'Hey Alan, how about we do a Teen Titans style book,' and he went quiet and he goes 'That’s what Youngblood is.' I thought that was our Avengers-type book.” Except, in the proposals YOU published, Rob, that were written by Alan, he CLEARLY states that Youngblood was based on the Titans template. A bunch of young superheroes learning their place in the world. Did you just not read the proposals, Rob?

“But then he took that formula and just kinda did that same thing, I mean, Tom Strong is Supreme, it’s flattering that he found his groove back with us and started winning awards back with us Except Tom Strong is not Supreme. Just because they were both drawn by Chris Sprouse, you cannot at all make this claim. Tom Strong is a far more versatile character than Supreme, who was never anything more than a Superman knock-off. Blame the actual people who created Supreme for that.... oh wait, that was you. because people forget, he’d fallen off the map, you can’t really find a great Alan Moore book from ’90 to like ’96, when he did Supreme, even the stuff he did for Todd [McFarlane] was derided like he was asleep at the wheel, like he didn’t care because it was campy, How about the first two issues of Big Numbers, which is such a critical success even though it never finished, that its plot alone frightens other writers? How about the first two books of Lost Girls, which would later become a 75 page pornographic comic, which sells almost exclusively on Alan's name alone? (Yes, fear him.) How about Brought to Light, which was such an indicting account of CIA history that it actually got his house put under surveillance, or A Small Killing, which proves that you don't need superheroes to do good comics? What about his critically acclaimed novel, Voice of the Fire, or his voice performances? What about that book... that really thick, research-heavy book... which is now being taught in college courses and was made into a movie with Johnny Depp, From Hell? OH WAIT, you mean "great" as in something you'd read. Maybe you don't read anything without superheroes. Even so, there was 1963, which is still flat out great. With better art, too, because at least Jim Valentino got him the right artist. whereas with Supreme he gave it that Silver Age with a twist, and nobody was doing that. Actually, Big Bang was doing that, Rob. Published by Image. You know, that company you partially owned for a while. And again, what he did for Supreme was ripped off for the next five years by all the other writers. He’s always been a trendsetter.”
“If you’ve done business with Alan, you have a different opinion of Alan. He markets himself as a poet, but he’s just a ruthless businessman, like everybody else, he kept wanting to more work because he just wanted to get paid. Jeph Loeb, he can tell you.” I've always thought that ruthless businessmen wanted to get paid more for less work. It sounds like Alan wants to be paid proportionately for more work. Which... uh... makes him... just a businessman. And Rob, if the man wants to get paid, maybe it's because you were late with payments. And also, you won't give him royalties.

“You worship at the altar of Alan, and then you go, oh, he’s just another guy that’s looking to get paid, and that’s why he’d do 3-4 books a month for us. Literally, he’d send three scripts through the copy machine” Sounds like a hell of a hand to have around, Rob. I don't see it being any different from Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, or... uh... hell, your boy, Jeph Loeb.

“He’s brilliant, but to me I think he’s been revealed as someone who’s spiraled wildly out of control. Like, he had a falling out with Wildstorm, you know, he’s having another falling out with DC, he won’t work for Marvel. At some point you put yourself on line and go, well, gee, Alan, is it everyone else, or is it you?” Wildstorm is owned by DC, and the problems Alan is having with Wildstorm are actually problems with DC editorial, who promised to stay away from his work when he signed back on. Alan's relationship with Wildstorm itself is still all right. He's just moving on to more personal projects. You know, the kind you don't read.

“Alan just wants to get paid more money, that’s it. Sorry Alan. I got my body of work out of Alan Moore, he doesn’t intimidate me, I don’t put him on a pedestal like Jack Kirby and Frank Miller,. Yes, Rob, because unlike Jack and Frank, you actually OWE Alan money. He’s just a guy who wants to get paid, and he cuts deals for himself that he doesn’t like down the line, and then he gets whiny and cries about it...Hey man, he worked for me for two years, I was quiet for like ten years. Oh, so he's not really a shrewd businessman at all then, is what you're saying? And then I watched him burn every other bridge, and I go “Hmm.” Jim Lee. Scott Dunbier. Wildstorm in general, if not DC. Avatar Press. Top Shelf. That's not burning a bridge, Rob. It's creating and maintaining them. Although we didn’t have a falling out with him. He just stopped working with us, because he now wanted to invest in his new universe with Wildstorm comics, Actually, it's been pretty well-documented that the reason he wanted to invest in his new universe is because your company went belly up, and he wanted to make sure he and the artists he was working with had a regular gig. He had a LOT of issues planned out for you. and again, like I said, OOPS! That went up in flames. If by "in flames", you mean "wrapped each series nicely, tightly, and beautifully that the whole thing is now published in hardback editions, and that he went all out on the last issue of Promethea and once again innovated, then... yes. He went up in flames. FLAMES OF GLORY. He gives 'temperamental artist' a new meaning.”
“And he comes out and he lets everybody know now 'I’m going to crap all over the adaptations you do,' He doesn't like the adaptations. He's been pretty clear. he’s shown no loyalty to his fellow artists like Dave Gibbons or David Lloyd. Which is, I guess, why he makes sure all the money goes to them and he gets none of it, right? Oh wait, I forgot - he just wants to get paid. He knows that by coming out and crapping on the movie, he’s gonna keep a certain percentage of the fan base away. He’s an interesting cat, someone should do a documentary, I’m waiting for the CRUMB version of Alan Moore.”
“He once called us up to tell us that he had just been in the dream realm and talking to Socrates and Shakespeare, and to Moses, dead serious, and that they talked for what seemed to be months, but when he woke up, only an evening had passed, and he came up with these great ideas. And I’m tellin’ ya, I think it’s shtick, dude. I think it’s all shtick. I’m gonna start saying that stuff. Cuz you know what? It makes you instantly interesting. Like 'O yeah, last night I was hanging out with Socrates. Came to me in a dream. We played poker . We dropped acid.' That’s the kinda stuff Alan would say all the time, and he’d say 'Oh, I’ve been practicing dark magic.'” Except that Alan was giving interesting interviews way before he got into magic. And also, at this point, you are insulting what is essentially the man's religion. (And Grant's, too, I believe.) And also, WHO CARES, ROB, where he gets his ideas from? He puts the work out, doesn't he?

Liefeld goes on to describe a comic book pitched to him by Moore that he still owns the rights to, entitled War Child. Written shortly after Moore saw Pulp Fiction for the first time, it's a knights-of-the-round-table concept set in a Tarantino-esque inner city gangland setting. Sounds amazing.

“I have him on tape for 4 hours just talking about it; it’s my most cherished possession”
“You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Alan describe the heroes – this is in the near future – getting trapped in an amusement park in Compton, where one of the rides you go on is a drive-by shooting.” Sounds interesting.

“A couple of the artists I gave it to handed it back. The first ten pages is some of the most difficult, visually, it’s hard to crack. Alan's scripts have been pretty well-documented as full scripts, to the point where if you just do what he says, you have something to draw. We've seen examples of this, and artists as good as Gene Ha and as mediocre as Stephen Platt have worked well with his scripts. You're clearly giving it to the wrong artists. We’ll probably publish it in script form. I can’t crack this, life’s too short.”
“There’s standing atop a building, looking in through the window at a certain angle, while the person is sitting doing their hair looking at themselves in the mirror...and the panel descriptions, you go, how do I shoot this? I could shoot it with a camera, but like all the storyboards? It’s just very difficult.” It just sounds to me like you have to draw involved scenarios which involves hands, backgrounds, nuance, and perspective. Oh, wait, I forgot, Rob Liefeld doesn't do basic anatomy, let alone any of those things...

“He’s a genius, undoubtedly, a showman, and a good one, a shrewd businessman, or just... a businessman, and a whiner. which is funny, because the only things Alan has ever complained about are censorship of his work, which is something all artists have complained about, and he's had nothing - NOTHING - but good things to say about all his collaborators. Except you. I have no intention of working with him again.” No one wants to see that happen anyway, Rob.

Oct 1, 2007

Is there mileage in a new Joker origin?

In the Killing Joke, we're introduced to a possible origin for the Joker. The Joker, of course, only remembers it this way sometimes. His past is multiple choice, and so he doesn't have just one origin.

In the latest Countdown, though, he sets it up as if he were to relate three possible origins, with the first one being the Killing Joke origin, and the second one being the movie origin, but then the third one really just returns to his Killing Joke origin, or at least the second part of just about all of his origins.

Is there mileage in exploring other plausible Joker origins? If Grant Morrison delved into his Jack Napier movie origin, or if Paul Dini in Detective introduced a Mask of the Phantasm-like plausible origin for Mr. J, do you think there would be growth in the Bat-mythos? Or would this just be seen as a Killing Joke retread and be forgotten in a couple of years?

Sep 8, 2007

All-Star Superman

I've liked Superman since before I could read. There's an incredible amount of fantasy involved to reading him, and there's also the simplicity of his characterization - he does the right thing because it's the right thing to do; no more, no less. He's not driven by guilt or tragedy; he's driven by his inner character. As far as I'm concerned, that makes him more fascinating and more admirable than most heroes. (By the way, my nephew and I came up with a top 10 list of heroes I like recently, and Superman's ranked number 8. So I hope that dispels any notion of me being exclusively a Superman geek.)

However, there hasn't been an incarnation of Superman that I really feel gets it right. The Golden Age Superman was too crude, the Silver Age Superman was too hokey, the post-Crisis Superman was too weak and angsty (which REALLY goes against why Superman is cool), and the current Superman is okay, but still a little too real-worldy for me. Even Alan Moore's interpretation of Superman both in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow and Supreme seems more like an intellectual exercise (how to make all these hokey elements cool in the modern day) rather than focusing on the characterization that makes Superman special. Even the cartoon was lacking in certain factors, most notably some of the imaginative elements.

And then this title came along:

All-Star Superman, named so because of the All-Star creative team of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely.

This series strips Superman down to his timeless, most essential elements. His power levels? Off the charts. His characterization? To do right because it's the right thing to do. And the tales herein? Fun. Imaginative. And uplifting.

The series draws heavily from two sources: The Silver Age, and Grant Morrison's boundless imagination. As such, it takes stories from the Silver Age of Comics, such as when Superman used to have to fight the mythical Hercules and Samson for Lois' affections, and it places them in the modern day, with modern sensibilities, making it a fun read all around. It also takes from Grant's DC One Million Concept, introducing ideas such as the legacy of the Supermen, Superman Prime, and the world of New Krypton.

My favorite issue has been issue 5, where Clark Kent, interviewing Lex Luthor in prison, has to help everyone from an escaping Parasite without compromising his secret identity but at the same time not disappearing in front of Luthor. Grant's take on Clark is hilarious. He's really klutzy, to the point that no one - not even Lois Lane - would suspect he's Superman, even with his glasses off. And when Clark does something incredibly klutzy, it's usually to prevent a bigger accident from occurring.

I also like how the art by Frank Quitely is crystal clear enough (and the coloring makes it beautiful) that when clever things like that do happen, dialogue isn't needed to convey what's going on. The chemistry between Grant and Frank is perfect, and worthy of the Eisner award they won.

And really, this was the vision in my head of the ideal Superman, which is basically a synthesis of all the Supermen that came before, and what made him the ultimate hero: unlimited powers, unlimited heart, unlimited fantasy.

So even though Grant and Frank are only on board till issue 12, at least that still gives me four issues more to enjoy, and at least I saw the Superman in my head in print at last.