Today’s Musical Interlude

I don’t wear it on my sleeve, but I do have a lapel pin. I am a rabid, card-carrying, born again Bat-Fan.

pinWhile many critics and comic book fans hail the Neal Adams/Denny O’Neill run in the comics for establishing the dark mood that is still present today, I believe, instead, that it was the Marshall Rogers/Steve Englehart run that truly established the theatricality of the character, his threatening personality to criminals, the art of evocative illustration, and a swirling cape of darkness that could stretch to infinity.


What, you ask, does this have to do with music?  For a short while, the only Batman that the mass public envisioned was the one popularized on ABC TV in the mid ’60s, and that’s where this video comes from.  Well, enamored as I still am of the lyrics-heavy Batman theme, it is not a Batman tune I present here today, but merely a Bat-related tune.  For in an episode of the Adam West Batman series, a young lady performed a short, private concert for three of Catwoman’s henchmen.


That young lady was popular singer Leslie Gore, who left us just a few short days ago, and the song she sang was one I heard many times, over and over, on WGH Radio (Hampton-Norfolk-Newport News).   Before she ever sang it on Batman, it was already a favorite of mine.


As a lifelong Batfan, I had to watch the new Batman movie, Batman: Under the Red Hood, via On Demand as soon as it was released.  It’s animated, produced by pretty much the same team that brought the original Batman Animated Series to TV in 1991 . . . and it’s gorgeous.

It is a great showcase for new writers, as it can be used in comparison with the comic book storylines that this film was based on to show how to make a long and involved story work far, far better than the originals.  You can read all about it here in this i09 review — which I agree with 100%.

May the Bat signal shine forever!

Superman 1941 — Better Animation than Disney

When I had the cash, way back when, I used to go to a bunch of science fiction and fantasy conventions. No, I’d never dress up in fan costumes — I never wanted to. I wanted to go to hear the authors and the filmmakers talk about their work. I wanted to see movies and tv shows I’d never seen before. I wanted to see and buy art. I wanted books and posters and prints and t-shirts from the dealers room.

It was at a Balticon in the early ’80s when I first learned that Superman cartoons had been produced in the 1940s. It wasn’t even in the film room where I saw them; it was in an aisle outside the dealers room. Somebody had set up a tv and a vcr and was showing a few of them for the crowd.

I stood there transfixed until, during the third cartoon, Maria tugged me away. The animation was elegant and stylized — clearly a period piece — and highly realistic, yet strangely stereotypical at the same time. Even then, at first glance, I knew that the artists who made those cartoons were better than Disney’s at that time.

Paramount, who had the film rights to Superman at that time, paid the Max Fleischer Studio an exorbitant amount of money to make that series of cartoons, and it shows on the screen. The animation is without parallel; and if the stories seem hokey — and they are — then the quality of the art makes up for it. Subtle shadings; special effects. Superman didn’t fly — he leapt far distances in a semblance of flying. And the the theme music! If you watch the cartoons all in one sitting, I guarantee you won’t be able to get that theme out of your head for days.

The Superman emblem from the cartoons, now available on a t-shirt.

The Fleischer Studios merged with another studio during production and they finished the series in 1942. The cartoons have been available for a long time in unofficial formats, both dvd and vhs, but the prints have been scratchy, flawed and seem amateurish. Warner Home Video eventually cleaned them up and restored them, and placed the cartoons in several Superman dvd sets during the last years, combining them with the Christopher Reeve movies. This April . . . well, here’s the info from Wikipedia:

On April 7th, 2009, yet another release will be made, this time a collection of all the cartoons released by Warner Home Video as the first authorized collection from the original masters, titled Max Fleischer’s Superman: 1941-1942 with a suggested price at $26.99; the set will include one new special feature in the form of “The Man, The Myth, Superman” featurette, along with an old special feature seen in the Superman II 2006 DVD release entitled “First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series“.

What are you waiting for? Go reserve your set. While you’re at it, get one of these, too:

These shows from the ’90s are better than any of the movies made so far, including The Dark Night.

Holy Sphinxter, Batman!

As a lifelong Batfan, it brings joy to my heart that one of my favorite villains from the 1960s Batman series is finally being brought to life in the Batman mythos of the comics.

As portrayed by veteran character actor Victor Buono, King Tut wanted only the riches and glory that he believed he deserved. In today’s Batman comic books, though, there is little room for broad strokes of humor, and the new King Tut is considerably darker, much buffer, and apparently quite murderous.

Still looks like fun, though.

Go here for an article/interview about the King Tut issues, starting this month in Batman Confidential #26.
However, my favorite pharaoh:

The Dark Knight’s Darkest Day

Breaks my heart to see something like this happen to one of the good guys . . .

From the Tampa Tribune:

Batman has had a slew of enemies over the years – The Joker, The Riddler, Catwoman – but in Ybor City last year, he added a new nemesis: Tampa police.

Ybor City’s version of the Caped Crusader –his real name is Walsh Ian Nichols – was sitting on a curb eating sushi on Oct. 21 when an officer arrested him for wearing a mask on a public street.

Nichols, 21, failed to use a batarang or fancy equipment to escape the officer. Now he is fighting back in court. His lawyer has filed a motion to dismiss, which will be heard next month.

“Law enforcement approached and detained Nichols who was sitting on the curb eating sushi and wearing traditional Batman apparel, complete with cape and partial mask,” the motion to dismiss states. “It was a dark day for the Dark Knight, as he was subsequently placed under arrest for wearing a hood on a public street.”

During an interview tonight, Nichols said a sergeant in Ybor City had an issue with his costume and caused him to land _ Pow! Zap! _ in the slammer. The sergeant, Nichols said, had previously advised him to unmask himself and told a fellow officer to arrest him.

“They actually didn’t let me finish my sushi,” Nichols said.

The legal argument outlined in the motion is that the law under which Nichols was arrested is aimed at combating hooded Ku Klux Klan members. The law was crafted to stop crime committers, not crime fighters, the motion states.

According to the motion to dismiss:

A Tampa police sergeant saw a Batman figure drive by on a motorcycle near East 7th Avenue and North 15th Street. The sergeant told Officer Lisa Cordero to track down Nichols, as the sergeant “had apparently advised Nichols to unmask himself three weeks earlier.”

Nichols was stopped at East 9th Avenue and North 15th Street and arrested. In addition to the charge of illegally wearing a mask, he was charged with driving a motorcycle without a motorcycle license.

The anti-mask law was created in 1951:

“No person or persons over 16 years of age shall, while wearing any mask, hood, or device whereby any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer, enter upon, or be or appear upon any lane, walk, alley, street, road, highway, or other public way in this state.”

The law is part of a section of Florida Statutes relating to criminal anarchy, treason and other crimes against public order.

“The Defendant would note that the Batman character has always fought against such nefarious deeds,” the motion states.

Nichols said if investigators search hard enough, they can determine just about anyone is breaking some law.

“There’s a godawful lot of laws,” he said.

He said he wishes he could go back to the good old days when he could walk around Ybor as the man in the suit.

“I can’t go down there really anymore,” he said. “Every time I go down there, me and my friends get dirty looks. My friends, meaning, my friend that dresses like Robin.”

Big freakin book

Of interest over at i09, a great blog all about things science fictiony, is this article about why SF and fantasy novels have become longer over the the last forty years or so. Of even more interest to me is the accompanying photo:

Maybe it’s a throwback to when I started reading comics, and Batman and Robin would fight the Joker or the Riddler while performing an acrobatic ballet across typewriters the size of houses, or throw a hoodlum into a human sized blender; but I love the idea of giant books that one could just step into and enter worlds of wonder…

If you have any idea where this photo was taken, please let me know.