Comic Review: Batman ’66, Vol. 3

I’m really loving this series and it actually keeps improving with each collected volume.

This third collection starts by bringing in one of the established comic book villains to the Batman ’66 universe. A character that has never appeared in the ’60s Batman show. Her name is Harley Quinn. In fact, she was actually invented in the ’90s for Batman: The Animated Series and wasn’t even brought into the comics until the end of that decade. But seeing a popular Batman villain get ’66-ized is kind of cool.

The Harley origin story happens alongside a Joker and Catwoman team up that also features a lot of cameos from various villains locked within Arkham Asylum.

After that epic tale, we get to see the return of TV only villain, Marsha Queen of Diamonds, originally played by Carolyn Jones of The Addams Family. That is followed by a short tale featuring Van Johnson’s The Minstrel. We then get a False Face story, followed by a bigger team up adventure that puts the Joker with the Riddler and has cameos by the Clock King and the first comic book appearances of Art Carney’s the Archer and Milton Berle’s Louie the Lilac, one of my all-time favorite Batman ’66 villains. Following that is another team up, this time featuring Tallulah Bankhead’s Black Widow and the Penguin. The last story gives us Egghead and comes with small cameos by the Otto Preminger version of Mr. Freeze and the Riddler.

This volume was heavy on the team ups and cameos but I like that it showcases a lot of the villains and think the stories work really well this way, as Batman ’66 was a short lived series and the show had a lot of villains to cover, many of which were exclusive to just the show.

Ultimately, this is just another great collection of the series that I had hoped would go on forever.

Film Review: Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (2018)

Release Date: January 12th, 2018 (Newseum premiere)
Directed by: Sam Liu
Written by: Jim Krieg
Based on: Gotham by Gaslight by Brian Augustyn, Mike Mignola
Music by: Frederik Wiedmann
Cast: Bruce Greenwood, Jennifer Carpenter, Anthony Head, Tara Strong, Bruce Timm, Kari Wuhrer

DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 78 Minutes

Review:

“[faces the Ripper] Well, I won’t beg. And I won’t get hysterical. I won’t give you the satisfaction. Know this: I forgive you.” – Sister Leslie

I was a big fan of the old Gotham by Gaslight story, which came out when I was just really getting into Batman circa 1989. It was also the first Elseworlds Tale, which has become a big imprint under the DC Comics banner. Strangely, although this shares the title, the time frame and the villain, it is it’s own story and not an animated adaptation of the famous comic.

At first, I was caught off guard by the alterations and didn’t think I’d like the film but by the time it got to the end, I was digging it.

Reinventions aren’t necessarily a bad thing, sometimes they work quite well and with this film version of Gotham by Gaslight, it was cool going into familiar but really under explored territory in the DC mythos and seeing someone else give their own take on it. Had that take been bad, I’m sure I wouldn’t feel the same but the end result and the story were really good.

The one things that really stuck out for me was the animation. I wasn’t super keen on the character designs but when we got to those high octane action parts, this film really came alive. The big finale, which features a vacant World’s Fair setting and a massive burning Ferris wheel was spectacular. Also, the scenes where Batman was riding through the streets of Gotham on a steam powered motorcycle, looked fantastic.

Ultimately, this film didn’t blow my socks off but it was worth a watch. The animated DC stuff has been really good the last few years, especially the Batman movies. This one is a bit better than their recent average and it was a welcome change to just having another straight up, modern Batman adaptation.

Film Review: Catwoman (2004)

Release Date: July 19th, 2004 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Pitof
Written by: John Brancato, Michael Ferris, John Rogers, Theresa Rebeck
Based on: Catwoman character created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger
Music by: Klaus Badelt
Cast: Halle Berry, Benjamin Bratt, Lambert Wilson, Frances Conroy, Alex Borstein, Sharon Stone

Village Roadshow Pictures, Di Novi Pictures, Warner Bros., 104 Minutes

Review:

“White Russian, no ice, no vodka… hold the Kahlua.” – Catwoman

Some motion pictures are so bad that they make you want to rip your own eyes out of your head while screaming in absolute terror, having gone mad from the level of absolute dreck you’ve been exposed to. Then there is Catwoman, which makes those movies actually look okay.

Is this the worst film I’ve ever seen? No. But man is it pretty damn close. And really, it is probably the worst thing I’ve ever seen that is based on a property I like that had a nine figure budget. Warner Bros. literally dumped $100 million into this dumpster fire. Was it a tax write off? Were the executives all mad? Was someone in the company trying to woo Halle Berry by giving her a starring role in her own comic book film? Has the Devil taken over Earth? Were they contractually obligated to follow through on a script contest winner from a competition held in an insane asylum? Did Joel Schumacher sell his soul so that he would no longer be the worst architect of a Batman-related property on the big screen?

The first question that someone may have for someone who has actually seen this film is, “What’s actually wrong with it.” Well, not to sound cliche but what isn’t wrong with it? Absolutely every aspect of this picture is terrible. In fact, it is beyond terrible. A new word needs to be invented because there is no way to describe how terrible this is. This is the cinematic equivalent to putting a garbage bag over an overflowing litter box, sticking your head in and huffing the fumes. And even then, it’s worse than that.

I guess I could point out the biggest offenses though.

One, the acting is abominable. Can one blame the repulsive script? Sure. But both are so dreadful that just thinking about which is worse causes me to need a handful of Excedrin Migraine. Didn’t studios learn their lesson from Halle Berry’s role in Die Another Day? I mean, she killed the James Bond franchise for a few years. Did they want her to kill the Batman franchise too? It’s just not Berry though, it is everyone. Never has Sharon Stone been worse. Did this actually kill her career? Because she hasn’t done a whole lot since. And why was Catwoman’s sidekick Ms. Swan from Mad TV?

Two, this features some of the worst CGI effects of its era. The scenes where Catwoman runs around rooftops literally made me laugh out loud like a drunken sailor spectating a Bob Hope USO show in Vietnam circa 1967. The CGI fight scenes were just as bad. But the worst thing, by far, was the one-on-one basketball game between Catwoman in her street clothes and Benjamin Bratt’s cop character. I was baffled by every single shot in this long sequence and trying to process it all made me contemplate suicide three times.

Three, what’s with the fucking story? There’s no mention of Batman, I’m not even sure if it’s supposed to be in Gotham City, Catwoman is a completely original character and she is given magic cat powers from a thousands year-old ghost cat from Egypt. Who the hell wrote this? Why the hell would they make a Catwoman movie that has absolutely no ties or similarities to Catwoman, other than sharing her name? A ghost fucking cat, seriously?! Seriously?!?!!! I guess they were trying to expand on the weird Tim Burton origin for Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman in 1992’s Batman Returns but why? That really only worked within that film. Why didn’t they just give Pfeiffer her own movie? That shit would have probably been infinitely superior to this, as long as Warner Bros. didn’t employ the same creative team that they used here.

Four, who the hell is this director? What’s with the name Pitof? A pretentious douchey name like that should have been a major red flag that told Warner Bros. to stay the hell away. Did they really need to get someone that was even more eccentric than those Schumacher films?

Five, why does all the music in this 2004 movie sound like generic R&B tunes from the early ’90s? Seriously? Why?! It’s like Warner Bros. had a bunch of unused tracks that were written for Whitney Houston to sing in The Bodyguard in 1992 and she was like, “I ain’t singin’ this shit!” So then they found them when they were throwing stuff away, twelve years later, and said, “Hey! Remeber these, guys? Let’s not waste them! Let’s use them in Catwoman!”

Six, what’s with the damn outfit? I get that Catwoman is supposed to be some shy and timid woman that got some sort of magical Egyptian ghost cat magic powers but if you didn’t already assume that she would inherit horny cat tendencies, her outfit spells it out for you. Because all cats want to do is kill, fuck and play with their food. I’m surprised that they didn’t have her paw around a half eaten Pop-Tart for a ten minute musical montage.

Seven, I could keep going but pointing out everything awful and stupid in this movie would take up an entire book.

I typically run shitty films through the Cinespiria Shitometer. I’m actually afraid to put this through my trusty machine because I don’t think that it can handle this much shit. It’d be like trying to run a 5 lb. sack of jasmine rice through a garbage disposal. The warranty card I have says that it can handle anything and that if it can’t, I’ll get a full refund or a new machine overnighted to me. Well, I guess I’ll give it a whirl. Hmm… okay. It’s going through. Aha! Astounding! The results are like nothing I have seen before! The results read, “Type Negative God Stool: A stool so powerful and awful that it turns the sphincter eye into a supermassive black hole that can suck all the shit in the world back up into its dark nothingness where it goes on to create an entire universe made out of fecal matter on the other side in what’s called the Brown Bang. A cosmic and cataclysmic stool.”

Comic Review: Batman ’66, Vol. 1

Around the time that 1989’s Batman came out, The Family Channel started showing episodes of the long dead Batman TV show from the 1960s. My generation was able to see the Batman that our parents grew up with and even though it was cheesy and ridiculous, it was damn cool. I instantly fell in love with the show and watched it every single night that I could but it was on pretty late and when the summer of ’89 was over, I had to go back to bed at a normal time because of that annoying school place I had to go to.

A few years ago, DC Comics resurrected the Batman ’66 mythos in comic book form. They have also done two animated movies with the voice actors being many from the original television show. These comics however, have been on my Amazon Wish List for quite some time. I was waiting for the series to wrap up before getting all the collected editions. This is the first of five.

The series starts off with a bang, giving us a good story pitting our heroes against the Frank Gorshin version of the Riddler. The first story also includes the Julie Newmar incarnation of Catwoman. After that, we get a villain team up story with Burgess Meredith’s Penguin and the Otto Preminger version of Mr. Freeze. Then we get tales with Cesar Romero’s Joker, Liberace’s Chandell, Joan Collins’ Siren, Vincent Price’s Egghead, The Sandman, a Batgirl versus Eartha Kitt Catowman story and a really cool London adventure that features the Mad Hatter and the Clock King and shows that they are closer allies than we ever realized.

The best thing about Batman ’66 is that it truly understands its source material. It is written in a way that makes it consistent with the show. All the characters feel authentic and there was great care in recreating this version of the Batman universe. I love seeing all these villains return, especially ones that were just in one-off episodes or not as well remembered as the big four: the Joker, the Riddler, the Penguin and Catwoman.

Batman ’66, Vol. 1 is a fantastic start to what should be a great series. I’m pretty enthusiastic about reading the next four volumes. I’ll probably also eventually pickup the crossovers that they have with Batman ’66 and Wonder Woman ’77The Green HornetThe Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the ’60s television series version of The Avengers (not the Marvel ones).

Film Review: Batman Returns (1992)

Release Date: June 16th, 1992 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Daniel Waters, Sam Hamm
Based on: Batman by Bob Kane, Bill Finger
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Michael Murphy, Vincent Schiavelli, Andrew Bryniarski, Cristi Conaway, Paul Reubens

Warner Bros., 126 Minutes

Review:

“My dear penguins, we stand on a great threshold! It’s okay to be scared; many of you won’t be coming back. Thanks to Batman, the time has come to punish all God’s children! First, second, third and fourth born! Why be biased? Male and female! Hell, the sexes are equal with their erogenous zones blown sky high! Forward march! The liberation of Gotham has begun!” – The Penguin

When I was a kid, other than Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Back to the Future, Part II, this was my most anticipated sequel. This was also the second and final time that Michael Keaton would play Batman, as well as being Tim Burton’s last Batman picture.

While I don’t quite love this chapter in the film series as much as the original, it is still really damn good and certainly better than the two Joel Schumacher films that followed.

We lose Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl and Jack Palance but we gain Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, as well as small parts by Vincent Schiavelli and Paul Reubens. Plus, Michael Gough and Pat Hingle return to accompany Keaton.

The two top billed villains in this story are the Penguin and Catwoman, although when you really analyze the picture, Walken’s Max Shrek is the true villain and his name was an obvious homage to Nosferatu actor Max Schreck. By story’s end, Catwoman is more of an antihero like she would become in the comics.

Danny DeVito was probably a perfect choice for the Penguin back in 1992. He had star power, charisma and definitely a similar body type. However, in this adaptation of the Batman mythos, he is reinvented to be more grotesque and much larger in girth. While he comes from wealth and opulence, this version of the character was rejected as an infant and went to live out his life in the Gotham City sewers where his only friends were sewer penguins and eventually the circus themed gang that he controls.

Catwoman also has a different origin. Here, she is a pushover secretary who gets in over her head and is shoved out of a high rise window, presumably to her death. There is a sort of mystical moment where alley cats swarm her body and she is magically reborn with cat-like reflexes and confidence. It’s pretty silly but Tim Burton made this film more like a dark fairy tale than his previous Batman movie.

Even though Gotham City is a massive place, the sets and design of this film make it feel pretty confined, even when we are in what are assumed to be wide open spaces. Maybe it was designed this way, intentionally. But the film feels smaller than the previous Batman movie, even though it cost a lot more to make: $80 million, as opposed to the $35 million budget of the first chapter.

Still, the cinematography is pretty good and the world looks much more like a Tim Burton world than the first film, which had tighter controls on it from the studio. It was the Burton elements though that I feel bogged this picture down a bit. Plus, the film was considered less family friendly and caused the studio to make drastic changes to the franchise after Burton was booted before the next picture. Granted, the followup movies were pretty horrendous.

This is a pretty good Batman picture, even if it does take some tremendous liberties in altering the source material. The right kind of spirit was there and this really just sort of exists in its own Tim Burton universe. That’s not a bad thing and if it wasn’t for the Burton Batman movies, we would have never gotten the near perfect masterpiece that was Batman: The Animated Series.

Comic Review: Batman: Year One

Year One was a Batman tale written by Frank Miller, back in the late 80s when he was doing a lot of cool Batman tales. It originally appeared in Batman issues 404, 405, 406 and 407.

Before the modern era of DC Comics, Year One was considered canon but has since been retconned, as comic book companies feel the need to reboot things all the damn time. It’s still canon to me, as are all the tales I grew up with.

Like many of the comics created by Frank Miller, this one truly is noir, at its heart. And also like Frank Miller’s Batman stories, this is considered to be one of the best.

It actually isn’t one of my favorites, even though I like it a great deal. It’s very short, when compared to longer Batman sagas and even though it spans a year, it’s missing some meat and potatoes.

It starts with both Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon arriving in Gotham City. It shows their stories parallel to one another, as Gordon moves up the ranks within the crooked Gotham City Police Department and as Bruce Wayne first dons the cape and cowl of Batman. It leads up to the two coming together and establishing a working relationship, just in time for the appearance of the Joker in Gotham City. The Joker doesn’t actually appear, however. In fact, the only real Batman villain in this is Catwoman with a few mentions of Harvey Dent, before he becomes Two-Face.

If you are a fan of Frank Miller, this will definitely be your cup of tea. Also, the art by David Mazzucchelli is some of the most iconic in Batman history. It’s gritty and it matches the noir vibe of the story.

Batman: Year One is a must own for any true Batman fan.

Comic Review: Batman In Noir Alley

There was a cool little comic book that was given away at the DC Comics booth at this year’s New York Comic Con. This was that comic, a collaboration between DC and Turner Classic Movies.

Batman In Noir Alley is an Elseworlds tale. It sees Batman team up with the host of TCM’s Noir Alley program, Eddie Muller. Their story is pretty short and brief, even a bit one-dimensional, but it was amusing seeing Batman side-by-side with one of my favorite television personalities.

In the main story, Batman is in San Francisco trying to track down the Moroccan Raptor, which was stolen from the Gotham Museum. It starts with Bruce Wayne watching the film The Moroccan Raptor in a dark San Fran movie theater. Something pops off, Bruce becomes Batman and finds himself in the lair of Eddie Muller, his set for Noir Alley. The two then try to solve the mystery but there really isn’t any suspense and the story is over about as quickly as it started.

Part of the problem with this rushed narrative, is that the story only takes up the first half of the comic book, about ten to twelve pages. The second half of the comic is the story Gotham Noir, which is another Elseworlds tale, this one following Jim Gordon, a private eye in this, and Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman. It seems to be a better story overall but it ends on a cliffhanger, unresolved. The only way to get the story’s conclusion is to download the digital Gotham Noir comic on the DC Comics website. It isn’t free though, it costs $4.99. I felt cheated but this physical comic book was free at the New York Comic Con, so I shouldn’t be that upset about it. I had to buy it on eBay though, as I didn’t go to NYCC and I didn’t have a comic shop near me that got some of the free copies to hand out.

Still, this was a cool and unique concept. I’m a fan of Noir Alley and I’ve been a lifelong fan of Batman. I just wish the Muller story was something better and that this wasn’t just a ploy to get me to buy some other comic book. If DC wants my money, I can show them my collection that’s full of their comics going back to the 1960s. My Batman collection alone, is pretty astounding. You’ve got my money, DC.