Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice

Because I prefer not to be ultra-critical like everyone else, I’ve decided not to tell you that Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice is a bad film. By bad I mean that it is poorly made, with a rotten script, lackluster photography, an indulgence of mindless action, and false characterizations. All of the negative professional reviews are correct, but I’m not going to tell you that. I’m not going to tell you that I loathe film reviewers anyway, but the filthy scum that they really are got it right this time. The movie sucks. At the very least, it’s worse than The Lone Ranger starring Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp and directed by Gore Verbinski. That movie sucked, too, and insulted its audience by believing it was funny and in its blatant ignorance of the Lone Ranger’s legacy. Yes, The Lone Ranger is a piece of Hollywood trash, made ever stinky by method actor Johnny Depp feigning a spiritual connection to Native Americans who would love to scalp the scrawny little prick, but I’m not going to tell you that. I’m not going to tell you that Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice director Zack Snyder is like Ed Wood with a budget, which is the truth so many Hollywood executives are ignoring. Director Zack Snyder is the equivalent of a brain damaged baby grown to manhood and let loose in a toy store because everyone feels sorry for him, and so he’s told to do what he wants, and he does so with disastrous results. Poor Zack, he wet himself again, but that’s okay, just let him do what he wants, nobody will mind. I’m not going to tell you that the ghosts of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster mind, or that the spirits of Bob Kane and Bill Finger mind, as do the generations of Batman and Superman fans. But no matter, Zack Snyder can’t be faulted because he simply isn’t all that bright to begin with, and he certainly doesn’t understand the characters. Let us not forget, although I won’t be the one to tell you, that screenwriters Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer are not exempt from this scathing criticism. I’m also not going to tell you that I was pleased that Gal Gadot was so good as Wonder Woman, especially after Geekdom condemned her casting choice only to see her arrive on the scene like a breath of fresh air. There is justice in her performance, the only real solid performance in the film, although Batfleck isn’t half bad either. Finally, I’m not going to tell you that the real reason the movie sucked is because there are no heroes in it at all, and the solitary heroine doesn’t have enough screen time. No, I’m not going to tell you any of that. I just thought it would be nice to sit here with a box of buttered popcorn and watch Christopher Reeve in Superman from 1978, and maybe later catch some episodes of The Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves. Yeah, that’ll do me just right.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Adventures of Superman Starring George Reeves

This month of “Superman” is dedicated to the memory of my father.

Rather than repeat the many biographical facts about Georges Reeves and this television show, I’d rather offer a personal glimpse into the influence this program had on me as I watched it as a child. Besides, I don’t consider anything I post on this blog as a “review” but simply just points of interest I’m commenting on for travelers in cyber-space. I became conscious of George Reeves on television in the early 1960s. Probably by the age of five or six, I was watching reruns on television without knowing they were reruns. So I was a second generation baby boomer that wanted to put on a cape and fly around Metropolis with Superman. In 1962 my parents owned a black and white television, as did most everyone else. Reeves, of course, died in 1959, a fact to which I was oblivious until about 1964. I recall distinctly that after President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 the other boys in the neighborhood and I thought it was too bad Superman hadn’t been able to save him. Bullets bounced off Superman, and in my mind’s eye I fantasized a black clad cowboy jumping out from behind a cactus and shooting the president. This image stemmed from the fact we were told the president was killed in Dallas, Texas. All I knew about Texas was that cowboys came from Texas. By 1965 I recall that some of us kids thought it would be cool if the Justice League of America could travel back in time and save President Kennedy. About the same time as this Justice League fantasy, my father purchased the family’s first color television set, a big flashy Zenith. Color television sets were all the rage. Word spread up and down the block whenever a new color television set was purchased. An unspoken competition was underway, and even as a child I was aware of the cultural dynamics of keeping up with the Joneses. Color television sets changed everything. Lawrence Welk was in color. Jerry Lewis movies were in color. And Adventures of Superman was in color. It didn’t matter that Georges Reeves was dead, and none of us kids wanted to believe that anyway. Superman was simply cool. We had Superman comic books and Superman in living color on TV. Soon thereafter we had Batman on TV with Adam West and Burt Ward. It was, for a very short time, a nearly perfect world. World’s Finest comics became the latest sensation because they featured both Superman and Batman. I was fascinated by George Reeves on television. He conveyed both strength and charm, like an endearing relative that everybody loves. Reeves played Clark Kent in the same manner as Superman, and he wasn’t timid at all. I thought this was interesting because the opening narration stated that he was a “meek, mild mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper…” but Clark Kent wasn’t meek at all. Instead, he was sort of a tough guy in a fedora, and sneaky about being Superman. George Reeves represented the best qualities of the comic book character. He was strong without being a bully; and he was generous and fair to everyone. George Reeves was also the best Superman because of his incredible charm. Noel Neill as Lois Lane and Jack Larsen as Jimmy Olsen offered the perfect balance and added another level of familiarity to the action. The show wasn’t always scripted well, but their personalities helped move the story along. All of the episodes are available on DVD in a box set, including the 1951 film, Superman and the Mole Men. Ask any fan and they’ll quickly tell you their favorite episodes: Panic in the Sky, Jungle Devil, The Defeat of Superman, and more. Noel Neill told me many years ago that her favorite episode was The Wedding of Superman. George Reeves will forever remain the fan favorite as Superman, just as artists Curt Swan and Neal Adams are justifiably acknowledged as the better illustrators. The late great Christopher Reeve also made a positive impact as Superman (for the record, I also like Brandon Routh). As for Henry Cavill, well…he’s a fine actor and we can only wonder what things would have been like if he had better scripts and Zack Snyder had never been born. It’s nice to dream.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? By Alan Moore

This month of “Superman” is dedicated to the memory of my father.

The great comic books we loved as children stay with us forever. They are no less equal in importance than a cherished mother, father, aunt or uncle. We saved them in cardboard boxes hidden under our beds because they were special. Just holding one in our hands decades later brings back memories of a magical summer’s day when we plucked it from a spinning wire rack. The artwork kept us mesmerized, the word balloons taught us narrative structure. Great Caesar’s ghost! My childhood ended in the 1960s, but the Silver Age of comics (as they call it) ended in 1986 when DC published this two-part story by Alan Moore. The artwork was by Curt Swan, Murphy Anderson, George Perez and Kurt Schaffenberger. Julius Schwartz was the editor. Alan Moore’s story pays tribute to the great mythology that had sprung up around Superman, and concludes with a charming wink that is reminiscent, in part, to the legacy of actor George Reeves. Alan Moore was saying hello and goodbye, and we all knew Superman might never be that much fun again. Sadly, we were right, although John Byrne and Jerry Ordway almost pulled it off, and would have, had they been allowed to stay with the series. Now Superman is controlled by a corporation, and The Big Studio is run by delinquents. This trade paperback also includes Alan Moore’s Superman/Swamp Thing Team-up, and his collaboration with artist Dave Gibbons in the classic tale “For the Man Who Has Everything.” The retail price is $14.99 and you can get it discounted on Amazon. The compilation is 128 pages long. This one is for those of you who remember when Superman was the “World’s Best-Selling Comics Magazine.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Superman for Tomorrow by Brian Azzarello and Jim Lee

This month of “Superman” is dedicated to the memory of my father.

This graphic novel reprints the mini-series from 2004. Author Brian Azzarello’s story was brought to life by artists Jim Lee and Scott Williams and several colorists. The result is a breathtaking display of action and imagination in the best tradition of sequential art. Visually, this story is magnificent, and Superman has seldom looked as powerful. The artwork and coloring are so mesmerizing that after reading it I went back and thumbed the pages simply to enjoy the flow of images. My one minor quibble is the blur-effect utilized to accentuate movement in a few select panels. That digital manipulation detracts from the craftsmanship of the artwork. Brian Azzarello’s story is intriguing, but the execution of the story is flawed. The plot involves Superman investigating am effect called “the vanishing” which has plagued thousands of people worldwide, including his beloved wife, Lois Lane. Readers unfamiliar with this iteration of the Superman world, or who didn’t follow the vanishing story-arc throughout the many DC titles, will be baffled at first. I believe the comic book industry has suffered for decades from the lack of stand-alone stories that don’t force readers to buy multiple titles to finish a story arc. Whereas two or three part stories were once special, today we have running soap operas designed to pull money from your pockets as you purchase dozens of titles just to see what happens next. Superman for Tomorrow is the perfect example of why that business model and editorial directive has contributed to a dwindling readership. The story is disjointed. With that said, Brian Azzarello turns in a good but not great story that manages to build sympathy for Superman’s plight. The inclusion of Wonder Woman and other Justice League members adds a touch of nostalgia, and certainly both Wonder Woman and Lois Lane have seldom looked so appealing. I am speaking, naturally, from a strictly male viewpoint. The artwork by Jim Lee and Scott Williams is the real reason to pick this one up, and delve into an imaginative world of flying heroes and some very scary bad-asses from the Phantom Zone.