Strong Talks Merging "Super-Cute" with "Super-Psycho" for "Arkham Knight's" Harley Quinn
Video Games, Comic Books, TV, Film
As you read this, my wife and I are already off on our annual hide-out holiday from the holidays, or as we like to call it, Fugitive Thanksgiving.
So for this week’s column, here’s something from the archives– one of the few times where I actually wrote a superhero comic myself. Sort of.
It was a few years back, and even though it didn’t come to anything, I still look back on the experience fondly.
It happened like this. My friend Jim MacQuarrie had been freelancing as an illustrator and cartoonist down in Pasadena, and he’d joined the Comic Art Professional Society. He was doing a lot of networking and meeting all sorts of people and hustling up work, like you do when you’re a freelance artist with a family to feed.
One of the guys Jim had met was Dennis Mallonee from Heroic Publishing. Heroic was having moderate success in the indie superhero area, especially with the book Flare. That was kind of a flagship title for them that had spun out of the original Champions RPG book. I think. It’s been a while.
Anyway, Dennis had a new project he really liked a lot, Liberty Girl.
The idea was that Liberty Girl had been a famous and beloved superheroine throughout the forties and fifties, then she had mysteriously disappeared. Suddenly, just as mysteriously, she had reappeared in the modern world. Now a reborn Liberty Girl would have to discover what had happened to her during those ‘missing years,’ as well as meet all the new challenges of the new century.
Dennis was writing the feature himself, Liberty Girl was very much his baby. However, he told Jim, he was thinking of running some 8-page backup stories, tales of Liberty Girl’s glory days from the forties and fifties, and maybe Jim might be interested in pitching him something for that…?
Now, Jim is a great idea man. Concepts and springboards and premises flow like a waterfall for him. But, and he’s the first one to tell you this, shaping those ideas into a story is not really his thing. He’s not a writer. So he emailed me.
The great thing, Jim explained, is that we could do anything. “All you need to know about Liberty Girl’s backstory is that she can fly, she’s patriotic and beloved, she’s Wonder Woman and Captain America all in one package. Anything else has yet to be filled in.”
I thought, why not? It might be fun to do a one-off, and to actually have an honest-to-God real comics writing credit– not a ‘zine, not a fan thing, but a real gig with a real paycheck. Bucket list item crossed off. So I said sure.
All I needed was the idea.
My first thought came from playing around with “patriotic and beloved.” Well, what if you take that away, what’s left? That collided with the idea of the 1950s, McCarthy, HUAC. Hey, what if Liberty Girl got on the wrong side of HUAC?
I roughed out an outline of a story of a nasty senator accusing a prominent TV reporter of being a Commie, and Liberty Girl trying to protect the TV guy from a series of attempts on his life… but when she does, the Senator holds a press conference accusing Liberty Girl of sympathizing with Commies and pinkos, and America turns against her. The TV guy thinks Liberty Girl is kind of a fascist and that beating up crooks is no way to solve the nation’s real problems; as far as he’s concerned both she and the Senator are blaming phony scapegoats instead of attacking real issues. The attacks on the TV reporter escalate and each time Liberty Girl rescues him, she becomes more reviled by the public. But she perseveres, and eventually it turns out that the ‘murder’ attempts are really just the TV guy’s boss trying to gin up publicity for his network, and Liberty Girl exposes him for the fraud he is. The TV reporter and the senator realize they were both played, America is relieved Liberty Girl is NOT a Commie, and everyone learns a lesson about rushing to judgement about who’s a REAL American. The End.
This was mostly because we’d seen Good Night and Good Luck not long before, so that was what popped into my head when Jim said ‘fifties.’ I realized I could mash up Murrow vs. McCarthy with “The Town That Hated Superman!” and I’d have a period piece that would actually LOOK like a 1950s comic. I loved it.
So did Jim. Dennis, however, did not.
That could never happen, he explained patiently, because America would never turn on Liberty Girl. No matter what. Never ever.
But that was the point, I protested, it’s like The Town That Hated Superman!
Nope. Not happening. No dice. Try again.
Well, Liberty Girl was Mr. Mallonee’s creation, he knew her and her world better than anyone. No point in arguing. If those were the rules, okay.
The trouble was, I didn’t have any other ideas. Fortunately, Jim did.
What if, he suggested, there was a groovy Adam-West-style TV show about Liberty Girl in the 1960s? After she’s disappeared? Then there would be a court case about defaming her image or something… we could have scenes from the show drawn in a campy Pop Art style contrasted with real Liberty Girl cases, sort of a Rashomon multiple-viewpoint thing….
I thought about it for a minute. The sixties. Adam West. Campy superhero TV.
In a few seconds I had it. The whole story. Not a court case… no, this would be the story of a hip young actress and what she learns when she takes on the very square, un-hip role of Liberty Girl.
I told it to Jim and he loved it. He sent the design for “groovy TV version” Liberty Girl and some thumbnails.
I used those to write the final script and that’s what follows, with Jim’s page roughs scattered throughout. I hope you like it. Afterwards I’ll tell you what happened with the script and a few other trivia footnotes.
Liberty Girl: “Taking Liberties”
Script: Greg Hatcher
Breakdowns: Jim MacQuarrie
Page one: Splash. If there’s any kind of logo or stock title for these backups — “Tales of Liberty Girl” or “The Lost Years” or whatever — the top left corner of the page here is the place to drop it in.
Foreground is a fellow in a weird, goofy-looking British Royal Guard outfit… the guys that stand in front of Buckingham Palace. His face looks a lot like Rip Taylor’s. He is gaping in surprise. Behind him, Liberty Girl is smashing through the window on a motorcycle.
LIBERTY GIRL: Your British Invasion is over, Beefeater! You’re about to get a lesson in American Revolution — courtesy of LIBERTY GIRL!!
Liberty Girl’s uniform and look should be a little off-model. Specifically, Sixties mod, maybe in bell bottoms or something, with her hair in a Laura Petrie flip. And her motorcycle should have a red-white-and-blue shield on the front, with glitter and fringe, like Yvonne Craig’s old Batgirlcycle. The art style should evoke the old DC go-go check era, Nick Cardy’s Titans or Infantino/Giella Batman.
Below this action is the caption : “A DIFFERENT kind of Liberty Girl story!” Below that the title stretches across the width of the page, in vaguely psychedelic lettering: “Taking Liberties!”
Page two: Three-tier page. Panel one — establishing shot, whole top tier of page.
We are in a wildly colorful room with weird oversize props here and there — filled with 1700’s British memorabilia, Union Jacks, whatever you can think of. Off to one side are four mop-top guys in black suits, tied hand and foot: Gerry and the Pacemakers. Liberty Girl is skidding her bike up to them.
GERRY: How DO you do it?
Second tier. Panel two: angle on Liberty Girl as she smiles and rips the rope off the guys.
LIBERTY GIRL: Just doing my duty, Gerry! We’ll have you and the Pacemakers safely back across the Mersey in no time, just as soon as I deal with your music-hating countryman!
Panel three: angle on the The Beefeater. He’s really mad now!
BEEFEATER: Redcoats! Get her!
Third tier. Panels four and five: Beefeater’s henchmen attack Liberty Girl.
Let the artist do this as he pleases, but the fight should look sort of awkward and wussy and choreographed, like Yvonne Craig used to do it.
SFX: ZAP! POW!
Bottom right corner of the page, a dialogue balloon from off panel.
BROCK: NO! NO! You IDIOTS! This is all wrong! For God’s sake!
(We could do that as a caption if it looks better, but I like the idea of it being a dialogue balloon.)
Page three: Another three-tier page. Structurally it mirrors page two but where that page was very bright and mod, this is more prosaic. The art approach should change, colors becoming muted and people looking more realistic.
Panel one: The entire top tier again, another establishing shot. We pull back to reveal that we are on a soundstage. This is actually the set of the mid-60’s Liberty Girl TV series. Rip Taylor pulls off his Beefeater hat — because it really is Rip Taylor — and several people relax and light cigarettes, including Liberty Girl herself, or actually the actress playing her, Yvonne Carter. Yvonne also doffs her Liberty Girl wig, revealing blonde hair cut short in a Goldie Hawn-circa-Laugh-In shag.
The yelling is coming from a middle-aged black man in a business suit and horn-rimmed glasses. He is Brock Jennings from the Freedom Foundation, the on-set consultant.
BROCK: This is ridiculous! You can’t… Liberty Girl didn’t ride a motorcycle! She flew! And the costume is all wrong! The whole thing is farcical!
DIRECTOR: Cut! All right, everybody take five.
PRODUCER: Hold on, Brock! The license agreement –
Second tier. Panel two: Yvonne is rolling her eyes as Brock whirls on her.
BROCK: And Liberty Girl doesn’t SMOKE, young lady!
YVONNE (oozing contempt): Did she DRINK? Because I could USE one.
Panel three: Pull back to show more of the crew over Yvonne’s shoulder, her POV. The producer is stepping forward to mediate, while the other folks kind of mill around.
BROCK: It’s that kind of contempt for Liberty Girl that makes me think this show is a huge MISTAKE!
PRODUCER: That’s enough, Yvonne. Brock — come on. We KNOW the Freedom Foundation licensed us the rights to Liberty Girl’s image, we’re very CONSCIOUS of that — but SCRIPT APPROVAL wasn’t in the…
Background dialogue from the cast and crew below this, should be lettered much smaller. Workplace grumbling.
RIP TAYLOR: Wasn’t the Beefeater supposed to have a confetti cannon? Because that IS my trademark–
GERRY: I thought we were going to do the NEW record. We’re ALWAYS doing “Ferry Cross the Mersey.”
CAMERA GUY: If we wrap this turkey before Christmas it’ll be a miracle.
Third tier. Panel four: Director is winking at Yvonne, who’s scowling back at him.
YVONNE: Honest to God, that Foundation guy acts like we’re rewriting the Bible. Bad enough I have to say these lines — and don’t get me started on the outfit! I’m a dramatic actress, I have credentials! I studied with Strasberg –
Panel five: another angle on Yvonne and the director. He’s got a reassuring hand on her shoulder, and is clearly giving her a come-hither eye but she is too annoyed to notice.
YVONNE: — and I’m trapped in this CARTOON!
DIRECTOR: Baby, you need to look at the big picture. It’s mod. Pop art. This is like, Richard Lester hip, Beatles-in-Help! hip, dig? That satirical anti-establishment vibe.
Panel six: The two of them going off together.
DIRECTOR: Never mind that uptight Brock cat and his ancient history. YOU’RE Liberty Girl now… and that makes you a STAR. At the party tonight, you’ll see, it’s ELITE, baby. ALL the cool people. And that’s US.
Page four: The top 2/3 of the page is the party. It’s pretty dissipated. Very psychedelic and mod, Nehru jackets and minidresses everywhere, but the colors still muted. It’s in a crowded living room of an upscale Hollywood home, design it as you like, but the important feature is the open stairway in the rear of the room. Foreground is the crowd at the party. (We will include as Easter eggs a bunch of celebs famous for this sort of behavior in 1966 — Mick Jagger, Peter O’Toole, a young Liza, anyone we can think of… and, of course, Peter Sellers circa The Party.) Yvonne looks a little raggedy herself, she’s drinking a lot and smoking like a chimney. We follow her in a slow counter-clockwise arc from the upper left of panel to the middle right, in a series of inset panels overlaid on the continuous background of the party as she makes her way through the crowd to the stairs. Each inset Yvonne looks a little — JUST a little, this should be subtle — more giggly and frayed.
YVONNE (first inset): Haven’t seen you since I tested for that horrid hillbilly thing at CBS — ‘buxom,’ they said — I think I’m buxom —
YVONNE (second inset): No, for ABC — it’s Liberty Girl, but a mod, pop art take — think Richard Lester —
Third inset is the director and Yvonne together: him looking a little more overtly predatory, Yvonne still chipper and clueless.
YVONNE: Oh, you were so right — did you see who’s HERE? Anthony Newley was talking to me about a musical version of — wait, where did he…
Fourth inset, the only one not part of the continuous background. Close-up of Director’s hand dropping something into Yvonne’s drink.
Fifth inset, Director leaning in close to Yvonne. She is still oblivious but by now we should be shuddering at what a creep he is.
DIRECTOR: Listen, this is so noisy — I know a place upstairs –
Last inset, Director and Yvonne going up the stairs in the rear.
DIRECTOR: — a little more, you know, INTIMATE — we should get better ACQUAINTED –
Second tier, bottom third of the page. The first panel of this tier is Yvonne and the director in an upstairs bedroom, Yvonne giggly and drugged and in a clear state of scandalous undress.
YVONNE: I feel so WEIRD… hey, I’m not dressed! Why am I not dressed …and you are…?
DIRECTOR: Hey, I don’t need to be dressed, baby!
Second panel of tier, last on the page: Now both the director and Yvonne are in their undies. Yvonne is looking a little fuddled and nervous now. Director is almost gleeful.
YVONNE: Wait — I don’t KNOW — STOP it, I can’t — I have to sit down –
DIRECTOR: LIE down, baby. Just LIE down and let it all happen –
COP’s BULLHORN (off-panel, from downstairs): All right, all of you, up against the wall, this is the police!
Page five: First panel is a newspaper front page. The headline is, HOLLYWOOD DRUG BUST. Below that is a photo of cops flanking a weeping Yvonne in her undies, trying to ward off a cameraman, with the caption, “LIBERTY GIRL” IS A LIBERTINE.
Panel two: Angle on Yvonne and the producer in his office. He’s furious. She’s angry too, but also ashamed, defensive.
PRODUCER: Nice pantyhose. Maybe Hanes will buy commercial time.
YVONNE: It wasn’t my FAULT! He spiked my drink! I TOLD you–
Panel three: different angle on producer.
YVONNE: Those vultures don’t care about what HAPPENED, they just want to print that horrible picture of me in my –
PRODUCER: I don’t CARE about blame. I care about keeping “Liberty Girl” on the AIR. Do you have any IDEA what this kind of press will do to us?
Panel four: Producer’s anger is ramping up, and Yvonne’s is fading away, her face is more ashamed now. He’s right and she knows it.
PRODUCER: Get this — you ARE Liberty Girl as far as the public’s concerned. You need to FIX this. You’re doing that hospital opening. In costume.
YVONNE: But we agreed — no in-costume public appearances –
PRODUCER: Yeah, well, that was before we needed good press of Liberty Girl fully DRESSED. You owe it to all the people here who depend on the show for a JOB.
Panel five: wide shot of a hospital-wing ribbon-cutting. Dais with a couple of dignitaries, and Yvonne — she’s in her mod Liberty Girl suit again, looks bored but is trying to be a trouper. She is seated in front of a big sign that says Children’s Hospital welcomes ABC’s LIBERTY GIRL!! In front is a huge crowd.
ANNOUNCER (Gary Owens? Another uncredited cameo): We have a very special guest — Liberty Girl!
SFX: CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP (Letter this however you want as long as it suggests THUNDEROUS applause. The crowd is mistaking her for the real thing, though she doesn’t know it yet.)
Panel six: Yvonne-as-Liberty-Girl is seated at a table, signing autographs. A one-armed soldier, clearly a Vietnam veteran, is first in line.
SOLDIER: We could sure have used you over there in DaNang a few months ago.
YVONNE: Well, you never know…
These next panels are a series of smaller close-ups, staccato, back-and-forth.
Panel seven: On Yvonne’s face, chipper, doing the PR thing.
YVONNE: …maybe when the show wraps I’ll be able to do one of those Bob Hope things.
Panel eight: The soldier’s face, looking a little hurt.
SOLDIER: Is that a joke? Having Liberty Girl with us could really make a difference. I’ve got buddies DYING over there.
Panel nine: Yvonne again, a little startled… and maybe annoyed. This is why she didn’t want to be in costume. She’s not Clayton Moore, damn it.
YVONNE: I wasn’t making FUN of — I think you may be confusing me with the part I play —
Panel ten: a tearful little girl’s face, next in line.
LITTLE GIRL: You’re a FAKE? We thought — Liberty Girl was really BACK!
Panel eleven: Yvonne’s face, really horrified, she knows she’s in way over her head.
YVONNE: I’m the one that’s on TV, I’m THAT Liberty Girl. I’m not–
Panel twelve: The little girl’s angry mother.
ANGRY MOM: I’m sorry, sweetie, I thought she was real too. But this is just that worthless Hollywood TRAMP.
Panel thirteen: Pull back a little, so we can see a completely disconcerted Yvonne over the shoulder of the next guy in line, a mild-looking fellow in a business suit. Don’t emphasize this, but he has a a sheaf of papers in his hand.
MAN: So you’re Yvonne Carter?
YVONNE: Yes! I PLAY Liberty Girl–
Panel fourteen: Close on the papers in the man’s hand, with the word INJUNCTION in bold type.
MAN (off-panel) Not any MORE. You’ve been SERVED, Miss Carter.
Page six: Panel one: Back on the Liberty Girl set. Everyone looks very nervous. Yvonne’s talking to the producer, holding up the injunction.
YVONNE: …a MORALS clause? They’re not the Hays Office!
PRODUCER: It’s part of the licensing agreement.
Panel two: different angle, over Yvonne’s shoulder on the Producer, who looks pretty pissed off.
PRODUCER: The Freedom Foundation can revoke the license if the show does anything to tarnish the IMAGE of Liberty Girl. Like, say, our director being thrown in jail for DRUG possession…
Panel three: Pull back, so we can see everyone on the set glaring at Yvonne. She should be at the center of the panel, looking small and ashamed.
PRODUCER: …or our STAR getting arrested in her UNDERWEAR.
Panel four: Angle on Yvonne and the producer. Yvonne looks shaken, desperate to redeem herself, a little girl wanting to make daddy happy.
YVONNE: Bill, I can FIX this. I KNOW now, how important Liberty Girl is to people — I don’t mean me, I mean the REAL one — Let me TALK to Brock –
Panel five: Different angle on Yvonne and the producer. He’s smoothing her over, she’s frustrated.
PRODUCER: Legal’s handling it. The studio’s got good people on this.
YVONNE: But it’s my responsibility–
PRODUCER: YOUR responsibility is to be the best Liberty Girl you can. That’s all.
Panel six: Yvonne whirling to go.
YVONNE: And THAT’S what I’m going to FIX.
PRODUCER: Yvonne, just take it easy! Don’t do anything STUPID!
Page seven: Panel one: the office door of the Freedom Foundation. The name should be on the door, one of those pebbled-glass panels. From behind it comes a word balloon (or a caption, but I like word balloons.)
BROCK (off-panel): I’m surprised to see you here, Miss Carter…
Panel two: Two-shot of Brock and Yvonne. He is seated behind his desk, looking magisterial; she is slightly embarrassed, a supplicant. She’s there to beg and they both know it.
BROCK (continuing): …I was expecting a battery of LAWYERS.
YVONNE: You wouldn’t know it from the press, or the SHOW we’ve been doing, but… I AM a classically-trained actress. I try to RESEARCH my roles.
Panel three: different angle, closer on Yvonne. She leans in.
YVONNE: So tell me, where is the show wrong? Who WAS Liberty Girl?
(separate balloon, lower — implying a pause)
YVONNE: Please. It’s…important to me.
Panel four is an inset of Brock’s face, overlaying panel five, which is a shot of the young Brock being assaulted by a gang of white kids. The flashback sequences should be monochromed somehow, sepia-toned maybe, or even black-and-white. Newsreel-looking.
BROCK: Let me tell you a story. In 1941, black wasn’t “beautiful.” In SOME neighborhoods, it was a CRIME.
Panel six: Liberty Girl, swooping down from the sky. The toughs are startled. Liberty Girl should be in silhouette, goddess-like, bigger than life. Coming down from Olympus.
Caption (Brock, narrating): “And then — she was there. Coming out of the sky like an angel.”
Panels seven and eight: Liberty Girl mopping the floor with the gang. Maybe a couple of long shots of the whole melee with scattered insets throughout of a fist in the face, a boot to the butt, young Brock’s face overcome with astonished joy. Choreograph it however you like as long as Liberty Girl’s face stays in shadow or off-panel.
Caption, horizontally overlaying the whole sequence: “It wasn’t what you do on your show. It wasn’t funny, or choreographed. It was… harsh. Street justice. She was showing them how it FELT to be helpless and beaten. She didn’t break any bones, but she HURT them.”
Panel nine: Liberty Girl helps Brock up. Still no view of her face.
BROCK: … you’re really HER.
LIBERTY GIRL: Yes, I am. Do you need a DOCTOR?
Page eight: Panel one: Still the flashback. Looking up, over young Brock’s shoulder, we finally see Liberty Girl’s face. She is magnificent. She radiates goodness and decency.
BROCK: I thought you only fought Nazis.
LIBERTY GIRL: I fight INJUSTICE. Everyone deserves JUSTICE. And DIGNITY.
(second balloon – indicating small pause)
LIBERTY GIRL: EVERYONE.
Panel two: Back in the present. Over Yvonne’s shoulder, somewhat paralleling panel one as she looks at Brock. Brock is leaning forward, intense.
BROCK: THAT’S who Liberty Girl was. That was why we founded this organization in 1951, to HONOR that ideal, and it’s why she let us use her name. Do you understand? Your show — You people are taking that dream and MOCKING it. There’s no DIGNITY to your Liberty Girl. And…
A slight gap between these two dialogue balloons. The idea is to indicate an awkward pause.
YVONNE: — and not much dignity to ME, either, lately. You can SAY it.
Panel three: Over Brock’s shoulder, Yvonne leaning forward. Now it’s her that’s looking intense.
YVONNE: I understand now. I do. Look, why don’t you come back to the studio with me? Meet with the producers. With me backing you up this time, they’d LISTEN. Television gives you the power to PUT that ideal in every living room in America! Don’t throw that away! We can do a fun show and still make something PROUD. I know we can.
(second balloon – small pause)
YVONNE: Give us a chance.
Panel four: small inset of Brock’s face, smiling gently.
BROCK: …all right, Miss Carter. A chance.
A long horizontal caption running the width of the page over panels five and six: “ABC’s revamped Liberty Girl ran four years. Yvonne Carter donated a third of her salary from the show to the Freedom Foundation, who used it to fund a school for young actors in Watts. Yvonne still teaches there, and often does charity appearances as Liberty Girl. In interviews, she says, ‘I’m just a placeholder. But Liberty Girl’s dream lives in all of us.'”
Panel five is a horizontal tier, the width of the page: A distance shot of fortyish Yvonne, still looking pretty good in her Liberty Girl outfit, signing 8x10s at a car show. Clearly, she’s unbent about doing in-costume appearances. In front of the table is a man and his young son. The man is smoking.
Panel six, a large inset on the right: Yvonne, smiling up as she signs.
YVONNE: Cigarettes are BAD for you, you know.
And there it is. This one, everyone approved of. Jim loved it and had a zillion ideas about how to draw it, Dennis liked it a lot and said it fit in to an upcoming plot he had where a Liberty Girl celebrity impersonator would be murdered and he could easily make it Yvonne Carter at a car show…. and so on. In fact, Dennis keyed in on my line about how the first two pages should look like Nick Cardy in DC’s go-go era and suggested we actually get Nick Cardy to draw those two pages. Jim and I were floating a foot off the ground for a month or so afterward, grinning like idiots about maybe getting to work with NICK FREAKIN’ CARDY!!
Sadly, none of that happened. Jim wants it on the record that it was all his fault for procrastinating.
I want it on the record that I disagree, especially since this was a spec job– money never changed hands, we had a verbal agreement that Dennis would take the finished story when it was done but that was all. And Jim was freelancing and trying to support himself and his family. Paying work had to come first.
This just-for-fun 8-pager wasn’t going to be high-paying work even if Jim had blown it out in a weekend, and he certainly wasn’t going to do that. The reason all I have to show you is roughs is because Jim could never take the time to get the pages where he wanted them, and I realize, looking back on it today, that I was asking the very-nearly-impossible– changes in style, super-condensed storytelling with lots of wordy speech balloons…I’m amazed that he made my script work at all, honestly. The word count is still alarmingly high, and I’d cut it way, WAY back once I saw the thumbnails. If I ever took another pass at it I’d be cutting even more.
Time passed. Jim would work on it and then have to do a paying job and it would lie fallow and then I’d remind him or someone else would remind him and he’d get back on it. Then Nick Cardy was out and Jim had to do the first two pages as well. And so on. Jim is much harder on himself over all this than I am. I figured the family and the mortgage had to come first, and it was a period piece that wouldn’t go out of date. After all, the idea that it was ‘out of continuity’ was the reason we thought we could do it in the first place.
Anyway, while we were still trying to hammer out this eight-pager in and around our actual paying jobs, Dennis quit publishing Liberty Girl. So it was a moot point.
Even though this script still feels overwritten to me, I nevertheless really like it. Years later, it still makes me smile to think of how much fun Jim and I had working on this and figuring out all the pop culture references and stuff we could get in there. Here are a few footnotes for you young whippersnappers out there who don’t remember the sixties.
Apart from Nick Cardy, most of the other specific references were all bouncing off the ‘campy’ TV tropes from 1967 to 1970 or thereabouts. I included Gerry and the Pacemakers because in the mid-sixties, every show went there. Sometimes it was a made-up band like the Mosquitoes visiting Gilligan’s Island– other times it was a real band like Boyce & Hart showing up on I Dream of Jeannie.
When I wrote this, I swear, I had no idea there was an actual DC Comics Beefeater that had appeared in Justice League Europe. Rip Taylor as the Beefeater was mostly just a visual gag I fell in love with. Technically it’s just a little too early here for him– his first-ever TV appearance was on The Monkees in 1968.
In my head the Beefeater is kind of a mashup of Rip Taylor on The Gong Show and David Wayne’s Mad Hatter from Batman.
Also, the Batgirl-cycle really did have fringe… in fact, it had a white ruff. And a giant yellow bow-tie ribbon on the back. Add a couple of tassels on the handlegrips and a pink throw pillow and you’d really have a vehicle that struck fear into the hearts of criminals.
I told Jim that the sixties Laugh-In Goldie Hawn was the basic look for Yvonne. But really I was thinking of a very specific Goldie– the one from Cactus Flower.
And when we were trying to figure out who Jennings, the Foundation rep, should be and what he should look like, I said, “Black guy with a craggy face. Like, you know, the guy that’s the Star Trek admiral.” Jim instantly got it and said, “Brock Peters,” and so Jennings became Brock Jennings.
The drug raid scene came from the infamous Rolling Stones bust back in 1967….
…in particular, all the media leering over Marianne Faithfull being led out naked except for being wrapped in a bearskin rug.
The Hays Office that Yvonne refers to is long gone now, but it used to rule on what you could and could not show in a movie.
Their censors were the reason so many married movie couples slept in twin beds, and they were the ones that came up with the infamous ‘one foot on the floor’ rule for bedroom scenes, as well. Gerald Gardner’s book on the subject is hilariously disturbing reading.
And finally, the story itself, the idea that hit me when Jim was talking about a court case and tarnishing the image of Liberty Girl… I realized that I could do not just the idea of contrasting real life versus television, but also, simultaneously, the arc of Adam West turning into Clayton Moore. The one would feed the other.
Specifically… in the mid-sixties, Adam West was an acting snob who liked to talk about playing dual identities and how his role on Batman was a classic in the style of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and other such thespian puffery– while partying hard till all hours with a variety of starlets every night. (Harlan Ellison once did an essay about this particular sixties Hollywood lifestyle, “Nightmare Nights At The Daisy,” and even mentioned West by name as an example.)
On the other hand, at that same time in the mid-sixties, Clayton Moore was still doing appearances as the Lone Ranger and was unfailingly gracious, a model of decency. He never blamed his fans for typecasting, no matter how lame the events became that he put on the mask for. Any kid who ever met Moore at a county fair or store opening in the sixties would tell you they’d really talked to the Lone Ranger; Moore understood the responsibility he had taken on with that character and what it meant to people.
So– having been told FLATLY that Liberty Girl was that same kind of inspiration in her fictional world, it occurred to me that a swinging mod actress snob would collide head-on with that, taking on the role of Liberty Girl. Especially if, as Jim suggested, her snobbery landed her in court. She’d have to learn that Liberty Girl and her ideals weren’t just ‘for the squares.’
After that it wrote itself.
And that’s about it. I count it as a Useless Story because there’s no way it’s going to ever happen as a real Liberty Girl comic, and it really can’t be re-purposed for another comic. But I’m glad that at least it finally gets to see print, sort of, after all these years, and I appreciate Jim giving his permission to run these roughs. I know he’s still not happy with them, but it was a huge thrill for me to see even these partial comics visualizations of what I’d given him, particularly the faces and facial expressions. And I appreciate Dennis giving us our shot.
I should add that Liberty Girl herself is back. A book featuring America’s Bronze Goddess of Freedom came out last July, starring her ‘Golden Age’ incarnation.
This one’s from Roy Thomas and Francesco Gerbino, along with Mr. Mallonee. Check it out if you’ve a mind to… haven’t seen it yet myself, but I’m curious and probably will eventually pick it up. And maybe sigh a little for What Might Have Been.
See you next week.
Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.