Saturday, January 9, 2016

Comics That Could Have Been

Bob Denver was born on January 9th, 1935. It's been eleven years since he passed away. He is best remembered as Maynard G. Krebs from The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis; He was "Dud" Wash, Charlene Darling's husband on The Andy Griffith Show; cab driver Rufus Butterworth on the short-lived The Good Guys; Dusty on the equally short-lived series Dusty's Trail; and Junior, a NASA maintenance man lost in space on the Sid & Marty Kroft series Far Out Space Nuts. His greatest and most-identifiable role is as the title character on Gilligan's Island. After three seasons, he joined the original cast, except for Tina Louise for two cartoon series - The New Adventures of Gilligan and Gilligan's Planet - three live action reunion films - Rescue From Gilligan's Island, The Castaways of Gilligan's Island and The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island - as well as a behind the scenes documentary about the series Surviving Gilligan's Island.

So, here's what I'm thinkin': legend has it that Sherwood Schwartz, Gilligan's Island creator took a roll of butcher paper and filled it with story ideas for the series. Pause, if you're not familiar with what "butcher paper" is, it's the white paper that meat is wrapped in at the meat counter at the store. Take as long as you need to figure out how a television comedy writer got his hands on a roll of butcher paper. Schwartz did, filled it with story ideas. The show lasted only three seasons. There still had to be more ideas on that butcher paper, 'cos there were 24 cartoon episodes of The New Adventures of Gilligan from 1974 to 1975 and 12 episodes of Gilligan's Planet from 1982 to 1983. The concept was recycled on Dusty's Trail for another 26 episodes.

So, here's my question: Sherwood Schwartz wrote jokes for Bob Hope.

The Adventures of Bob Hope #109
Final Issue
Cover by Neal Adams

The Adventures of Bob Hope ran from 1950 to 1968 and produced 109 issues at DC Comics

Schwartz also wrote for The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was another DC Comic that produced five issues from 1949 to 1950.

Schwartz was also a writer for My Favorite Martian.

Gold Key produced nine issues for My Favorite Martian between 1964 and 1966.

Okay, here's my actual question: why wasn't there ever a Gilligan's Island comic book? Sherwood Schwartz worked with at least three television properties that were developed for comic books. Bob Hope led the pack. DC Comics produced a very successful Jerry Lewis comic book that started out as Martin and Lewis before the comedy team broke up. Red Skelton was another comedian that Schwartz wrote for. Skelton was featured in a comic book started in 1936 called Hullaballo; later it was called 1000 Jokes. In all, there were 109 issues between 1936 and 1969. Schwartz seems to be literally surrounded by comic books. With a property that would definitely have benefited from a comic book audience. If we're looking at it from a modern perspective.

While it would have been awesome to have a Gilligan's Island comic book, or a tie-in comic book to either of the cartoons, I would hazard a few guesses why. As entrenched in pop culture as Gilligan's Island is now, the show itself was a laughing stock while it aired. It struggled in the rating for three seasons. Network executives didn't want it on the air. Critics panned it. Modern audiences don't so much laugh at the jokes, but laugh at the concept. And yet, audiences are treated to homages to the show. The series Lost is basically a re-working of the concept.

Who knows what kind of audience the comic book would have drawn. Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis and the comedians of 1000 Jokes were lucky to hit over a hundred issues. Most sitcom comic book tie-in comic books didn't last very long. Most television series comic books don't last very long. There were a number in the 1960's. Not very many in the '70's. The concept of a TV series tie-in didn't come back around until the 1990's and the 2000's with CSI and 24.

Science fiction seems to work better in comic books than comedy. Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica have all fared well over the years in the super-hero market. Espionage and action adventure does equally well; like James Bond.

The old saying goes, Comedy is not easy

I would imagine that Mr. Schwartz spent so much effort working to keep the series on the air, that he might never have thought of a tie-in comic book. Which is a shame. It's also a missed opportunity. 

Word is Josh Gad is writing and starring in a new Gilligan's Island movie. Hopefully, it won't be terrible, like other updated properties have been. Maybe with renewed interest there might be a comic book tie-in. I'm not sure I would read a comic book for an all-new, all-different Gilligan's Island. Unless, Gad proved that he had the concept of seven stranded castaways that represented the seven deadly virtues the way Schwartz did. And he had the comedy down.

I'm thinkin' that Gilligan's Island would have been, and probably still could be, a pretty decent comic book. There have been a lot worse ideas for a comic book. Most comic book publishers sometimes just throw books on the stands and see how well they do.

Batman '66 lasted 30 issues. Ralph Garman, Kevin Smith, Ty Templeton and Alex Ross teamed up for a sequel to second season The Green Hornet guest appearance. Batman '66 Meets The Man From UNCLE by Jeff Parker is currently on the stands.

DC is also publishing comics based on the '70's Wonder Woman television series.

Bob Gale, who was involved in the original Back to the Future is actually going back to fill in some blanks with an ongoing comic book series.

Marvel has reclaimed the license for Star Wars. Star Wars and Darth Vader comics are among the top selling titles. Marvel has also published comics for Princess Leia, Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca - among other characters - with comics for Obi-Wan and Anakin and C-3PO coming.

So, why not a Gilligan's Island comic book?

I'd read a Gilligan's Island comic book. Would you?


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Six Degrees of Wade Wilson

Deadpool is in theaters Friday, February 12th, 2016. So, maybe it's Valentine's Day with Ryan Reynolds. Something tells me that his Deadpool is going to be much more successful than his Green Lantern was.

There were a number of things wrong with Green Lantern. Very few of them were Ryan Reynolds' fault. I think he did his best to make lemonade. I have not seen him in Blade III yet, but I do believe that he delivers. I've enjoyed every movie I've seen him in.

Deadpool was created by Teen Titans fan Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza. When Nicieza saw the character design, his reaction was, This is Deathstroke from The New Teen Titans

"Slade" Joseph Wilson made his debut in The New Teen Titans #2. Created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. His full name and title was Deathstroke, The Terminator. He was contracted by The H.I.V.E. to eliminate The New Teen Titans. He took the contract when his son, Grant, who took on the identity of The Ravager could not complete the task. Grant attempted to enhance himself in the same way his father had, but the affects burnt - or ravaged him - and he died prematurely. 

Deathstroke was behind Tara Markov infiltrating The New Teen Titans as the elemental "hero" Terra. Tara is the somewhat estranged sister of Markovian monarch Brian Markov, also known as Geo-Force from Batman and The Outsiders. The legendary "The Judas Contract" had Terra take down the Titans and together they delivered them to The H.I.V.E. During The Judas Contract story line, Dick Grayson outgrew his Robin identity and became Nightwing - an homage to Superman's Kandor identity, which was a one-off of Batman. Wilson had another son, Joseph, who had the meta-human ability to "leap" into others; kind of like Deadman. When possessing others, Joseph took control of their motor skills as the hero Jericho.

Before relaunching The New Teen Titans with Wolfman, Perez worked with writer David Michelinie to create a villain in the pages of The Avengers.

The Taskmaster was a consummate athlete, hand-to-hand combatant and weapons master. He had photographic abilities. Any move he saw, he could copy without practice. He was like an updating of the classic Avengers adversary, The Super-Adaptoid. The Super Adaptoid was like the android created by T. O. Morrow, Amazo. Morrow had also created The Red Tornado; much like Hank Pym had created Ulton, who in turn created The Vision and Jocasta. In some ways, The Taskmaster was also like the ill-fated X-Man, Mimic.

The Taskmaster has been both an adversary and an unwilling ally of - wait for it - Deadpool.

Comics are full of one-off characters,

Superman is easily the most copied character. Captain (Shazam!) Marvel is a one-off.

Ultraman, part of Earth-3's Crime Syndicate is a one-off. So is Hyperion of Marvel's Squadron Supreme.

Even Bizarro is kind of a one-off, being that he's a mirror cracked, evil opposite version of Superman.

We'll get into more Six Degrees of Wade Wilson in the days between now and February 12th. Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments below.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Making 2016 Super!

First, there was Christopher Reeve.

From 1966 to 1978, Adam West defined the super-hero genre. Three seasons in Prime Time on ABC, and as here and there on Saturday morning cartoons, his version of Batman was how super-heroes were seen. Then Christopher Reeve came along as a then modern day Man of Steel and there was a burst of super-hero activity. Wonder Woman had been tried. Spider-Man mad an attempt. So did Captain America and Dr. Strange. Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno came along with The Incredible Hulk. That did pretty well for awhile.

Christopher Reeve's Superman redefined the super-hero genre.

After the failure of Superman III and Superman IV, the franchise went in another direction. Bringing Superboy to the small screen. This wasn't easy. Following the 1985 DC Comics line-wide event Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Man of Steel returned to his roots as The Last Son of Krypton. He didn't have adventures as a Boy of Steel. There was no Superboy, Krypto or Supergirl. There was no Bottle City of Kandor, either. The world of Krypton was left behind, and Kal-El was the lone survivor of a dead and forgotten world. His tie to the Legion of Super-Heroes was severed.

This is where Superboy came in. The television series was the first weekly series produced outside of Hollywood, at Disney/MGM Studios, and later Universal Studios, in Florida. It was also a comic book television series written by comic book writers, which was pretty unique.

Most television series tie-in comic books had a certain style about them. Alex Toth, Ric Estrada and Ramona Fradon kept the look of the Super Friends cartoon in the tie-in comic book. That wasn't the case with the first issue of Superboy: The Comic Book. Clark Kent didn't look like either John Haymes Newton, who played him in the First Season, or Gerard Christopher, who played him from Season Two on. Lana resembled Stacy Haiduk... a little. The characters didn't look like the Superboy comics that had come before, either. 

The story is interesting.

The night before leaving for Florida and Shuster University - named for co-creator Joe Shuster - Clark and Lana are at a going away bonfire where Pete Ross and a girl named Becky argue over who's the better driver. They agree to a drag race on the dangerous Lakeshore Road. Pete loses control of his car and Clark rescues him. Lana points out that almost everyone has had a mysterious Guardian Angel save them. Huh, imagine that! Next she's creeped out by the motor oil on Clark's hand.

Heading back home, Clark finds Pa waiting up for him. Jonathan gives Clark a rousing "with great power comes great responsibility" talk. It's pretty similar to the "destined for great things" talk Glenn Ford's Jonathan gave a Young Clark in Superman: The Movie.

The next morning Ma and Pa Kent see Clark and Lana off at the bus station.

Shuster becomes the Great Wide Open World for Clark and Lana. To mark the occasion, she lets down her hair. They have an unfortunate first meeting with TJ White. He's the son of Daily Planet editor Perry White. His father wants him to become a photo-journalist, but his heart, Rock music and stand-up comedy. In case you were wondering, TJ White is the series' comic relief. Ironically, he's Clark roommate.

On their way to the bonfire at the start of the issue, Clark and Lana saw a meteor shower. One of the meteors is now being tested at Shuster University. The tests go awry and there's a blackout, spreading from the university into town. Clark races to help over at the local hospital. When things get serious at the University Research building, he soars into action as Superboy.

What is interesting about this meteor is it's just a meteor. It's not Kryptonite. An alien life form has attached itself to the meteor. The alien recognizes Clark as a fellow alien, too. Maybe that's the whole point. A way to establish Superboy as otherworldly. But wouldn't he already know if Pa kept the remains of the rocket? Unless that little detail is not part Superboy's background. Superboy promotes that instead of Pa Kent dying from a heart attack, and Clark heading to the North Pole to build the Fortress of Solitude and getting his education there, Kal-El became the Boy of Steel and had college adventures. Oh, and Pa's still alive.

It's an interesting direction to go in pre-Smallville. It's a pretty solid comic book story by writer John Moore, pencilled by Jim Mooney, inked by Ty Templeton - who would go on to make a huge name for himself - edited by Jonathan Peterson and Mike Carlin. Carlin, incidentally, would later be immortalized as the villain Mastermind in The Batman Adventures.

It's an interesting direction to go in for "Superman's adventures when he was a boy". Superboy filled a lot of comic book pages in Smallville; maybe they were thinking to go where no one had gone before. There's an Afterward that explains the premise of the companion comic as continuing the adventures from the syndicated television series. Filling in the blanks and missing pieces that are not shown in live action. It should be interesting to see where this series goes. 


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Batman '66 Meets...

One of my favorite comics growing up was The Brave and the Bold. Every month, Batman would team-up with another hero for an adventure. According to Wikipedia, The Brave and the Bold became a Batman team-up book due to the popularity of the '66 live action Batman television series. The Brave and the Bold was part of the wave of Batmania. The Batman team-ups started with The Brave and the Bold #74 and ran through the 200th and final issue in 1982. The Brave and the Bold featured the first appearances of both the Justice League of America and Teen Titans. The book introduced Metamorpho and the Suicide Squad. Mark Waid and George Perez were part of a revival of the book starting in April 2007. This revival only lasted a few years, thirty-five issues, through August, 2010.

When the animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold was launched, two comic book series set in continuity were launched as well. The first series reached twenty-two issues; the second series reached sixteen.

In 2014, after launching the Batman '66 title, DC Comics brought together Ralph Garman, Kevin Smith, Ty Templeton and Alex Ross for a comic book sequel to the second season two-part episode "A Piece of the Action/Batman's Satisfaction" featuring guest stars Van Williams as The Green Hornet, Bruce Lee as Kato and Roger C. Carmel as Colonel Gumm. The six-issue mini-series, Batman '66 Meets The Green Hornet featured the team-up of The Joker and the newly christened General Gumm.

In December 2015, Jeff Parker launches Batman '66 Meets The Man From UNCLE. The Man From UNCLE was an NBC espionage series that ran from 1964 to 1968. It was also a Gold Key comic book series from May 1965 to April 1969. There were twenty-two issues in the comic book series.

The announcement of this second team-up series got me thinking: What other '60's combination television-comic book series could be the next for The Dynamic Duo? Below are my Top Five suggestions. Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments below.

5) The Monkees

The British duo Chad and Jeremy made a number of appearances on '60's television, from The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Patty Duke Show, Laredo, The Dating Game and My Three Sons. They also appeared in the two-part "The Cat's Meow/The Bat's Kow Tow", where Catwoman steals their voices!

Batman was part of the '60's pop-culture, from the music scene to the surf scene.

The Monkees, an American version of The Beatles, was not just a half-hour NBC sitcom about a rock band. Dell Comics published seventeen issues between 1967 and 1969.

One of the cool things about The Monkees was The Monkee Men!

It would be pretty cool for Batman and Robin to meet The Monkee Men!

4) Get Smart

The '60's were all about spies. Sean Connery as James Bond; Patrick MacNee as John Steed on BBC in The Avengers; James Coburn as Derek Flint; Dean Martin as Matt Helm; Robert Culp and Bill Cosby in I Spy; and Don Adams as CONTROL Agent 86, Maxwell Smart in Get Smart.

Since The Dynamic Duo will be teaming up with Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin from UNCLE, it seems only fitting that they should also team up with another Dell Comics character, Maxwell Smart.

Maybe Batman and Robin and Agents 86 and 99 could come together to thwart a KAOS plot by Seigfried.

3) My Favorite Martian

My Favorite Martian was a brilliant sitcom. Bill Bixby, who would later star as David Banner - "physician; scientist" - otherwise known as The Incredible Hulk, played newspaper reporter, Tim O'Hara. O'Hara stumbles across the story of the century - a Martian on Earth! Ray Walston played The Martian, who becomes Tim's Uncle Martin.

Uncle Martin had some great powers and gadgets. He had a spaceship; a time machine; he could turn invisible, read minds and levitate things with a forefinger!

My Favorite Martian was a Gold Key comic book series that ran for nine issues from 1964 to 1966.

DC is no stranger to Martians. One of their most prominent aliens is J'onn J'onzz, The Martian Manhunter! J'onn was seemingly a combination of Superman and Batman.

It would be interesting for The Dynamic Duo to team up with Tim and Uncle Martin for either a '66 adventure or maybe a time travel story.

2) The Wild, Wild West

The Wild, Wild West was a steampunk James Bond. Or, "James Bond on horseback". Modern gadgets and gizmos re-imagined in the Old West, with Robert Conrad and Ross Martin as US Secret Service Agents James West and Artemis Gordon. Steampunk was a genre popularized by 19th Century authors Jules Verne, Mary Shelley and H. G. Wells.

Another Gold Key Comics title, The Wild, Wild West reached seven issues in 1966.

The Batman comics that inspired the 1966 live action series had Batman and Robin travelling back in time to the Old West. It would be interesting to pair Adam West's Batman with Robert Conrad's James West for a Wild, Wild West adventure - maybe involving Shame?

1) Star Trek

Star Trek is quite possibly the longest running series ever. Three seasons on NBC in the 1960's; six feature films with the original cast. A Gold Key comic book series that ran from 1967 to 1979. A Marvel Comics series that produced eighteen issues. Two separate DC Comics series, one that reached fifty-six issues, another that reached eighty issues. Most recently an ongoing IDW series, featuring new stories with the rebooted, re-imagined, original crew. A long-running novel series.

Although a fixture set three hundred years in the future, Star Trek: The Original Series is definitely a product of the 1960's. A starship; cool gadgets and gizmos; a pointy-eared Vulcan.

One of Star Trek's specialties is time travel. Either a slingshot around the sun or through The Guardian of Forever. It's quite possible that The USS Enterprise could visit 1966 Gotham and Batman and Robin. Maybe Gotham would be another City on the Edge of Forever.

Those are my suggestions. Based on television shows that were also comic book series.

Maybe you've got a suggestion or two. Feel free to share.

Saturday, September 19, 2015


DC Comics Present and Chief Content Officer, Diane Nelson recently said (clickable link there) that there would be no shared universe between television properties like Arrow, The Flash, Gotham, Legends of Tomorrow, Vixen, Supergirl and the upcoming slate of films like Batman V. Superman. The reason is that it would hinder natural storytelling.

Nelson's quote is that it would, "...end up handcuffing our creators into trying to work with the same storyline or force them to hold back characters or introduce certain characters. Ultimately it hinders the ability for someone like (showrunner) Bruno Heller to come in and create ‘Gotham.’"

You can read the quote in a number of places. I found it here (clickable link).

As a fan of DC Comics characters, yes, this does bother me. It really shouldn't. It shouldn't give me the impression that characters like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are being managed by people that really do not understand them. There are a lot of fans, like myself, that believe that comics have been corporatized and the characters reduced to brands, and storytelling eliminated completely. There seems to be no shortage of disenfranchised comic book fans.

I had to stop and think about what she said.

DC Entertainment is home to the Multiverse. So, she understands what she's saying. To DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. creating multiple, individual, separate threads is not unusual. It would be unusual for DC and Warner Bros. to have a single, cohesive universe and timeline. That's Marvel's thing. Marvel is known for a single cohesive timeline. Marvel may dabble in multiple, alternate realities; however, those are secondary, or subordinate to the main single, cohesive timeline. Marvel may have had an Ultimate Universe; and now, a Cinematic Universe, but only DC has it's realities "categorized".

  • Earth-2 (Two) is pretty much everything Golden Age. More recently it has become an alternate reality, but originally it was Classic DC. Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, Carter Hall, Ted Grant; The Justice Society of America. Featuring alternate, or old-fashioned takes on Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. 
  • Earth-1 (One), where Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman really live, along with more modern heroes like Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, Ray Palmer, along with Katar and Shayera Hol.
  • Earth-3 (Three), for evil versions like Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Johnny Quick and Power Ring. The Crime Syndicate has pretty much eliminated all other meta-humans to conquer that Earth.
There's also an Earth-S for The Shazam Family, there was an Earth for the Quality Comics heroes, an Earth-X for heroes like Plastic Man and Uncle Sam. There were each a bunch of different Earths for different purposes.

The purpose of 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths was to streamline everything, boil down all the alternate realities, timelines, universes and Earths into a single, cohesive DCU. It lasted for roughly twenty-five years and was most recently undone. DC now has 52 Earths!

The truth is, DC specializes in alternate realities. Look at the multiple iterations of Batman. There were the politically incorrect films in the 1940's; followed by the campy '66 television series; the late '60's, '70's and '80's cartoons as well as the Super Friends interpretation. There was the 1989 Batman film, followed in style by the 1992 Batman: The Animated Series. Batman teamed up with Superman, then the Justice League. There was a cartoon that looked at the early years of The Batman; then Batman: The Brave and the Bold. There was Beware The Batman. Now, we have a Batman-less television series, Gotham. This is just live action and animation. Batman has changed noticeably by decade in comics. Neal Adams and Dennis O'Neil specifically changed Batman following the cancellation of the Batman television series in 1969, returning him to his original dark, Gothic roots from the late '30's and early '40's.

Batman is just one of DC's many characters that has changed over the years. The only honest way to explain all of the different iterations co-existing is through multiversity. Which is DC's specialty.

Even though Marvel has Golden Age characters; Captain America, The Human Torch and Namor, the Sub-Mariner, Marvel has never had a separate or alternate timeline for these characters. The alternate realities are more "What If?", or "Elseworlds" material. Marvel has one single history and timeline, whereas DC has multiple, alternate histories. Which it continues to re-write.

As a fan of DC Comics and characters like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Justice League and Teen Titans, this is pretty disappointing. As much as I might like the comics, the cartoons, the television series or films, they are all going to be different from one another for the sake of "storytelling". It was incredibly disappointing that Smallville wrapped up with such a sense of hope and optimism and Man of Steel was released with a continued sense of dark brooding and angst. At least we have Superman: The Movie and Superman II.

As a fan, the question I'm left with is this: What stories are served by having a weekly television series franchise with one Barry Allen and a periodic film franchise starring another Barry Allen? Wouldn't that be limiting the scope of either, so as not to infringe on either? A television series can tell certain stories that roll out over weeks at a time. A film is more of a capsule. It tells a single story. It's a single adventure. There is an event and that event mist be resolved. Wouldn't there be a natural desire and inclination to recycle that audience from television to film, and from film and television to comic books and novelizations? Loop the media?

Looking at Nelson's argument involving the Fox drama Gotham, a Batman-less Batman series, the timeline there seems wonky. While no ages are given in the comics, none of the characters look older than Batman, except Gordon and Alfred. At least, on paper. Maybe in Batman '66 The Joker was a little older than Adam West's Batman. Gotham is presenting the formation of a Batman rogues gallery. Yes, it's compelling. But the basic conceit is that Batman inspired these tragic figures to come out of the shadows. More importantly, these characters are much more than any police force can handle because of their singular uniqueness. Gotham is contained in one "snow globe", while the big screen Batman is self-contained in another "snow globe" - separate from each other. That creates more confusion than it eliminates. I'm okay with Adam West being different from the Michael Keaton, Kevin Conroy and Diedrich Bader versions of Batman. But to have two similar versions co-existing simultaneously?

"I'm Young!"
"I'm Old!"
That's like the two Jennifers seeing themselves in Back to the Future, Part II.

Shocking, and confusing.

As a fan of DC Comics and some of the greatest characters ever, here's what I want: Keep It Simple, Stupid.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Everything Is Awesome!

A Review: Lego Justice League vs. Bizarro League

The Lego feature, Justice League vs. Bizarro League is an enjoyable animated movie.

The film opens with Bizarro terrorizing a playground full of children and their mothers in a battle with a merry-go-round octopus. For Bizarro, everything is opposite, yet in most instances he is still driven by a need to be a hero and save the day. In comic book stories, Bizarro's opposite sense of rescue is to put someone in danger. Here, that doesn't seem to be the case. The danger comes as a byproduct of Bizarro's rescue effort. He's not portrayed as a villain. More than less he comes off as a hapless hero, a wannabe. He's also confused as Superman's twin brother. something that causes The Man of Steel no end of embarrassment. This brotherhood drives the story of the film.

Superman banishes his ugly, "red-headed stepbrother" to the square Bizarroworld. He uses natural, inanimate rocks to create citizens for Bizarro to protect, and create a Bizarro Daily Planet building. This is where Bizarro develops a sense of putting those around him in danger, so that he can then step in and save the day. Although Bizarro is an imperfect clone created by Luthor, Superman's actions develop Bizarro's villainous behavior and character. Bizarro comes off as lonely and unfortunate. A sad, tragic figure. Like the kid in school that nobody will play with. Here, Bizarro comes off with more empathy than in any previous appearance. The shift in storytelling as writers such as Sholly Fisch will tell you, is that there are no bad people, just bad decisions and actions. A true villain, according to Robert McKee's Story, is the character that thinks he's the hero and what he is doing is right. That's Bizarro.

Not long after being banished to Bizarroworld, the super-Frankenstein returns, gets his hands on Luthor's duplicator ray-gun and zaps the Justice League, creating Batzarro, the world's worst detective; Bizarra, Wonder Woman's warrior princess counter; Cyzarro, a duplicate of Cyborg, and Greenzarro a timid version of Guy Gardner. Bizarro an his League overpower the Justice League and make their escape to Bizarroworld. The Justice League follows.

On Bizarroworld, both Leagues face Darksied!, and Desaad! They are harvesting the strange rocks on Bizarroworld to power a weapon to use against Earth's heroes! Duh-duh-duh-duhnnnnn!!!!

Both Leagues must work together to stop Darksied. As if things weren't already complicated, Bizarro has Luthor's Kryptonite bomb and Batman has brought along his own chunk of Kryptonite! In the end however (SPOILER ALERT) team-work, camaraderie and brotherly-love save the day.

There are a lot of things that make this feature enjoyable. Even though I can't bring myself to acknowledge Teen Titan Vic Stone as a Justice League Member, Cyborg and Guy Gardner provide comic relief. So does Batman, as his distrust of Superman and working as part of a team builds over the course of the adventure. Cyborg as comic relief is both a pro and a con. His constant prattle is just a reminder that he is a better fit with the Teen Titans. He comes off more as a sidekick than a colleague. I understand his inclusion in the League: with Superman and Green Lantern filling the cosmic role, J'onn J'onzz is the odd man out as a Martian. In modern times, technology has replaced science fiction as a frontier. Also, as a Martian, J'onn is more of a local, than the other mysterious alien races. Still, the League's classic line-up has stood the test of time.

Cyborg was the only real source of grating irritation. The rest of the story is a nice throwback to when DC super-heroes and cartoons were fun and wacky, like Super Friends.

I give Lego Justice League vs. Bizarro League five stars for awesomeness.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

NEW Teen Titans

On Monday, The Nerdist broke a story about the line-up for TNT Network's Titans series, based on the DC comic book team Teen Titans. The line-up was revealed as Dick Grayson's Robin; wheel-chair bound Barbara Gordon - who may be Batgirl or Oracle - Hank Hall's Hawk and Dawn Granger's Dove; the Rachel Roth Raven from Geoff Johns' run on Titans and Princess Koriand'r of the planet Tameran, Starfire. Titans, on TNT is said to be drawing heavily from the Marv Wolfman and George Perez era, The New Teen Titans. Warner Bros. has declined comment on the story revealing the line-up. Here's the thing, though. This line-up isn't really representative of the Titans. It may very well be the line-up, bringing together different eras through the characters. It just feels like something is missing.

First off, it's very bird-centric. That's the most obvious thing that jumps out at me. "Huh! They're almost all birds!" Robin, Hawk, Dove, Raven, Batgirl. Starfire is the only one that can actually fly, though. It's also very Bat-centric and Gothic. Robin, Batgirl and Raven all fit that very mystic, gothic Batman-family genre. It's also a very volatile team. Hawk, Starfire and Robin are known for the serious "warrior" mentality. This isn't a very well rounded line-up. My first reaction was, Where's Donna Troy's Wonder Girl? Where's Mal Duncan? Where's Lilith? Where's Gar Logan's Beast Boy? I'm assuming that they're not going to be anchored down with Garth's Aqualad. Wally West's Kid Flash is probably licensed to the CW's The Flash series. Roy Harper's Arsenal is on Arrow. I have to confess that I'm not watching Arrow, so I don't know if Mia Deardon is part of the cast. That would mean that Speedy would be completely unavailable to the series. Supergirl is scheduled for CBS, and there's been talk of crossovers with The Flash and Arrow on CW - which is a pretty interesting concept - but no mention in The Nerdist story about a crossover with Titans. Yet.

And then it hit me. The genius of the Marv Wolfman-George Perez era of The New Teen Titans. Maybe you realized it a long time ago.

Victor Stone, codenamed Cyborg, is probably one of the greatest new characters in the history of comic books. He is so important, that he replaced J'onn J'onzz, The Martian Manhunter as a founding member of the rebooted Justice League. He's gone from having cybernetic parts to actually having Boom Tube technology from Jack Kirby's New Gods. With Cyborg as part of the Justice League now, the shift is from science fiction to science technology. The Justice League was very science fiction. Superman, Green Lantern, The Martian Manhunter, all alien in nature. A good majority of the adventures the Justice League had in the Silver and early Bronze Ages were in space. They moved their headquarters from a cave, like Batman's, to a satellite orbiting the Earth. Since the end of the Space Age, and the mothballing of the US Space Program, science fiction and aliens are not that big a deal anymore. But science technology is.

That's why Cyborg was an awesome New Teen Titan. It's pretty confusing that he's still part of the animated Teen Titans Go! series and yet has been added into the Justice League, first through Smallville, the Justice League comic book reboot and is part of the Superman sequel. During the Wolfman-Perez era of New Teen Titans, Vic's adjustment and his personal life was an ongoing sub-plot. He was angry over being handicapped and he was bitter toward his father. How he coped made for some great stories. Plus his friendship with Gar Logan was pretty cool. The pair were a super-hero Odd Couple. From what I've read of the rebooted Justice League - which is just a few issues past the six issue secret origin arc - Vic's Cyborg feels like the odd man out. He's supposed to be the core of this new Justice League just as he was the New Teen Titans. He's taking the place of The Martian Manhunter, who for years maintained a psychic link between all the members. Now, it's a communications link. I don't think I'm the only Titans fan that wishes Vic was back at the kids' table.

In addition to Wolfman and Perez's Cyborg, they created Raven and Starfire. They complimented the gizmos and gadgetry. Raven brought mysticism, and Starfire brought science fiction to the team. The New Teen Titans greatest enemies was Raven's father, the demon Trigon. Another rogue was the charismatic cult leader, Brother Blood. Both were in Raven's mystic wheelhouse. Blackfire, another Titans foe, was Starfire's sister. The Titans fought a couple of alien races bent on recapturing Starfire and enslaving her home planet.

What didn't work in the first two incarnations of Teen Titans was straight-forward super-heroics. The Classic Teen Titans were written by old dudes that were on the wrong side of the generation gap. The stories and dialogue showed that they were trying but really had no idea what young people in the '60's were like. A lot of the stories put the Titans in situations where they took a stand against adults. Forgettable villains like Mister Twister and Ding-Don-Daddy turn the Titans into something like a Beatles movie or a Beach movie with Frankie and Annette. The Titans greatest foe of the Bronze Age was Dr. Light, who was only practicing on them, so he could take on the Justice League. He turned out to be a pretty lame adversary.

I feel sorry for the creative teams that have come after Marv Wolfman and George Perez. They really did something unique. They took the team and made it something more than just a super-hero comic book about hitting bad guys. As a fan, it's hard to see what Dan Jurgens and Geoff Johns have done and what Wil Pfeifer is doing, without comparing it and becoming nostalgic about "the good old days". It's gotta suck when an announcement is made like The Nerdist, featuring the Titans line-up for TNT and see the line saying that the show will rely on the New Teen Titans era of the '80's. Sure, that's pretty much the era that any fan is familiar with.

I'd like to see a live actions Titans series or film that mirrors the great stories that I've enjoyed. Something that encompasses the three new characters that Wolfman and Perez created. Something that involves technology, mysticism and science fiction.

That would be pretty cool. Who knows, maybe these are the characters that can do that. What do you think?