Axel-In-Charge: Unmasking the "Totally Awesome Hulk"
This week, I share some links to cool comic things and ramble on for far too long about Doctor Who. So, you know, an average Sunday.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What emotion-that-is-not-really-an-emotion should become a power ring next, and what color would it be?
BRAVE AND THE BOLD DEPT: “Chill of the Night!” Written by Paul Dini
Paul Dini’s name brings up a certain set of expectations, especially when it’s a Batman cartoon. Naturally, the teaser involves Zatanna, because, well, it’s Dini. More than that, however, the episode evokes the tone and atmosphere of the Dini-and-Timm-led Batman animated series from the 90s. The plot involves the Phantom Stranger and the Spectre making a wager over Batman’s soul, as to whether he will serve justice or vengeance. To figure it out, they transport him back in time to meet his parents and solve their murder. As you can imagine, this episode gets pretty dark at times (and retcons that terrifying Christmas episode, I think), with Batman crossing over into full-on “I am vengeance, I am the night” mode, contrary to the general Silver Age appearance of the show, as seen in the climax, with the gathering of gloriously retro-looking bad guys. Dini even pays homage to that ages-old story of Joe Chill bragging about creating Batman and paying the price for it. In the end, of course, Batman (unmasked for the first time in this series) throws his lot in with justice. He’s a level-headed dude, that Batman.
The cast for this episode is the real draw, however; it’s like old home week! Kevin Conroy returns to voice the Phantom Stranger, and this time he’s joined by Adam West and Julie Newmar as Thomas and Martha Wayne, and Richard Moll (Two-Face in the 90s show), not only reprising his role for a Two-Face line, but also playing the mob boss that sets the pivotal murders into motion. Here in Dini’s story, three generations of Batman combine to further the current portrayal, and it makes for a great episode.
ITEM! I don’t usually link to things on the CBR frontpage, because I like to assume everyone reading this blog is a CBR regular, but apparently that’s not true. Even if it was, I would link to this recap of WonderCon’s Darwyn Cooke panel anyway. Cooke refuses to compromise his creative vision, something I wish more comic creators could get away with:
When [Batman: Ego] was finally released in 2000, DC’s editor Mark Chiarello asked for a proposal for a follow-up, which eventually became 2003’s award-winning “DC: The New Frontier,” a project that Cooke almost walked away from when Dan Didio suggested updating the setting to the modern day (“It should be easy to do,” Cooke paraphrased Didio as saying, “Space capsule, space shuttle…”). To a somewhat surprised audience, Cooke said that he told Didio that he’d rather walk away from the project altogether than update it. Two days after walking away from the project, Didio relented on the period setting, and Cooke began work. “There’s nothing heroic about it,” he said. “I was just old enough to know I was going to get hosed if I let these guys drive my bus.”
ITEM! Shaun Huston at PopMatters writes a fun article on comics in libraries, and I, about a month away from my Master’s degree in Library Science, find this interesting. Comics in libraries is one of my missions! Hell, a special library with nothing but comics is a wet dream. Er, anyway:
One issue that librarians addressed was fear: fear of patron reaction to a growing collection of comics at their library. Everything bad that people think about comics—that they expose kids to sex and violence and freaks, that they keep kids from learning to reading ‘real’ books, that they are junk food for the brain—becomes a potential protest to their inclusion on the shelves. Not only do librarians need to be prepared to answer such objections, but those who see a place for comics in the library need to address the fears held by some of their colleagues.
ITEM! Looks like it’s Batman week over at DC’s Source blog, with an in-depth behind-the-scenes on the current Batman & Robin series, with notes from Grant Morrison and loads of sketches from Morrison and Quitely. Here are parts one, two, three, and four:
In his notes for the cover of issue 3, Morrison says:
In a wonderfully Beatles-esque moment, this cover became the subject of frenzied conspiracy theory and fan interpretation when a reader, for unimaginable reasons of his own – perhaps goaded by Professor Pyg’s obsession with upside-down-ness – rotated it through 180° only to find an eerie ghost of this famous image, as drawn by Brian Bolland in his and Alan Moore’s graphic novel BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE.
I’m sad to say that none of this was planned, but the undeniable apparition of a faceless face – a mask and a personality made of vertiginous space and scraps of meaning, all spiraling down into the ineluctable singularity of a Batman right hook – was so absolutely emblematic of the Joker that it surely had to be the work of some Cosmic Trickster.
There’s your Comic Book Legend, sorted.
ITEM! Tom Brevoort digs a twenty-year-old Young Avengers pitch out of his drawers (er, his desk, not his trousers). The creative team– I hope you’re sitting down for this– is none other than Jim Valentino and Rob Liefeld.
ITEM! Over at ComicsAlliance, Chris Sims recaps Blackest Night in 60 seconds, with his astonishing crayon skills:
ITEM! Hey, here’s something I haven’t mentioned yet in the post– Batman! Johnny Bacardi points us to some groovy pages from a recent Batman: Brave and the Bold comic that top anything the TV show has brought us. That’s right– Super-Hip and Brother Power, the Geek versus the Mad Mod! Sholly Fisch, you win the internet.
ITEM! Project Rooftop raged against the dying of the light by launching a Batwoman Week in the face of Greg Rucka removing himself from the project. Here’s Evan Shaner’s version:
REMAKE/REMODEL/REMIX: Warren Ellis’ Whitechapel challenge this week involved transporting the X-Men into Ellis’ own Freakangels universe. This one seemed particularly challenging to the regular gallery of artists, but Felipe Sobreiro and Alberto Silva knocked theirs out of the park (click to enlarge):
Extra cool points (remember those?) for use of Doop.
DOCTOR WHO DEPT: “The Beast Below” Written by Steven Moffat
Doctor Who has been around for a little over 46 years now, and in that way, we could suitably compare its run to, say, comic books! It’s a run comparable to the Marvel Universe (although it’s not like Marvel stopped publishing Spider-Man for 16 years, but let’s gloss over that), and has built up a thick barrier reef of continuity over the years, as well as a hardcore fan base. Ah, yes; fans, the best and worst of any piece of popular culture. Put two fans of anything in a room, and in five minutes they’ll either become the best of friends, or they’ll turn feral and rip each other’s throats out. Doctor Who fandom, like that of comics, is filled with people who are never happy, trapped in some bizarre loveless marriage with a television show they used to adore, but now cannot escape from. Like certain comics readers, these fans yearn for the day when Doctor Who was good, and by “good,” they mean “when I was ten,” or whichever age they were when they first discovered and fell in love with the thing. If we do the math, well, the percentages surely indicate that Tom Baker is the proper Doctor, and the more Tom Baker-y something is, the better.
Back in the days of old-school Who, the show didn’t have a terrific budget; many fans will gleefully tell you of wobbly sets and monsters made out of tinfoil and bubble-wrap. Yes, those things happened on occasion, but it wasn’t that bad. Fast-forward to the 21st century, and suddenly Doctor Who was one of the most expensive shows on British television (I’m totally assuming this, but let’s be honest; what, aside from maybe Top Gear, could possibly cost more?). However, the new season has suffered some budget cuts, so we’re told, and it no longer looks as glamorous. I don’t want to say it looks cheap, because I’m certain it isn’t. Maybe it’s the lighting, or the cinematography– it looks more like the last season of Sarah Jane Adventures (with some Twilight thrown in) than the last season of Doctor Who (for the record, I quite like the Sarah Jane Adventures). In fact, it all looks a bit Tom Baker. I’m sure the fans are happy (that is a lie. I am sure they’re pissed off about something).
Baker is certainly an eccentric, and brought all of that to the fore whilst playing the Doctor. Matt Smith seems to do the same, though I am uncertain how much eccentricity is acting, and how much derives from the man himself (fans are comparing this episode with Baker’s second story, “The Ark in Space”). Someone in the comments section of i09 this week said that from certain angles, Matt Smith looks handsome, and from others, he looks like a brick in a wig. Certainly, he seems to look different depending on how the camera’s pointing at him, and this, combined with his bizarre mannerisms, make him an inspired casting choice for the Doctor. His is a Doctor who (see what I did there?) thinks so fast that even he can’t keep up with himself, who looks at the universe like a dizzy, wide-eyed tourist, but who is far, far more than the sum of his parts. I’m going to enjoy watching his Doctor develop.
Right, then. The episode. Typical Who business: it’s the future, the United Kingdom is now floating in space, and the Doctor discovers a dark secret, involving the titular beast, the monarchy, and the dreaded Smilers– that’s one in the picture there– who are unfortunately underdeveloped. Moffat maintains his fairy-tale-crossed-with-sci-fi direction; in his scripts, children are immensely important, because Moffat strongly believes in the show as a children’s show. This year, it feels more like a kids’ show than it has since it returned in 2005, though Moffat makes sure to write for very smart children, as well as the children living in the bodies of adults.
Last week, Andrew Hickey complained that modern Who had lost all the morality of old Who. This week, the Doctor is faced with a hefty moral choice, and chooses what he feels is the least worst option. I maintain that “choice” is one of the three major themes of Doctor Who (what are the other two? Tune in next week, maybe!), and the entire thematic underpinning of this episode relies on that choice, and, specifically, the morality of the choices the characters make. There’s a strong political tone, as well, dealing with bad things done by the government, and the complacency of the populace. So that’s interesting.
NOT COMICS DEPT: I about peed my pants with pure joy when a friend sent me the link to… 8-Bit Doctor Horrible! This is a work of genius, and the MIDI musicality is perfect:
Next week: I try to keep my off-topic review of my pet TV show to two paragraphs. Also, links, and art, and the like. See you then.
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