A joke on “Archer” made me aware of the death of Michael Findlay. A sexploitation film director of the 1960s and 70s, he was slashed to death by a helicopter on top of a New York City skyscraper. While boarding passengers and preparing to take off, with the blades spinning, the accident caused the helicopter to suddenly lurch. Three people, including Findlay, were killed as the blades smashed to bits, another passenger died later, and a woman on the street below was killed by debris.
Then I noticed the year this happened: 1977. The year before “Superman: The Movie” debuted, in which Superman’s first public appearance happens when Lois Lane boards a helicopter on a rooftop, which then spins out of control due to a fault and threatens the lives of people both in the copter and on the streets below.
Maybe this was an obvious connection at the time; I was only a kid, unaware of all but the biggest news events. The writers of the Superman movie had to think up a first appearance for Superman that would be a real grabber. The helicopter accident always struck me as a bit underwhelming, but to a public that had helicopter crashes on its collective mind, that might make more sense.
In the comic books, aside from the 1938 story where he first appears lifting a car full of gangsters after they kidnap Lois from a dance, there never really was a canonical “first appearance of Superman” that all the fans knew like gospel. The reason was: Superboy, “The Adventures of Superman When He Was A Boy,” became part of the canon in the early 1940s. This meant that Superman was first introduced to the world as Superboy. A 1984 mini-series finally filled in the first appearance of Superman when, in the middle of fighting Lex Luthor, a college-aged Superboy decides it’s time he called himself Superman. So…ta-da, I guess?
Come to think of it…I don’t even know if there’s a “world gets introduced to Superboy for the first time” story. There either isn’t one…or there are 40 competing stories! Either way, like I said before, there wasn’t a really legendary tale of Superman/boy’s first appearance that we all knew by heart.
In comic book canon, Superman’s first “reveal to the public” moment was in John Byrne’s “Man of Steel #1” that relaunched Superman and reinvented him for the post-Crisis era. For the first time since 1943, there was no Superboy. Superman makes his first appearance at age 25 when he rescues a damaged “space plane” with Lois Lane aboard. That 1986 mini-series happened the year of the Challenger disaster. Whereas the Findlay accident may have inspired Superman: The Movie’s helicopter scene, this story was already in the works when Challenger exploded and (reportedly) the story was hastily rewritten to use a gigantic space plane that in no way resembled the shuttle. Though he isn’t in costume, everyone recognizes that this was Superman when he later shows up in the cape, so it is accepted as his debut appearance.
In 1993’s “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” which draws heavily from the Byrne-era continuity, Superman first appears in costume stopping a bomb on a new spaceship. He swallows the bomb, then assists with the successful launch.
An air disaster is again part of the first appearance of Superman in The Animated Series (1996) episode The Last Son of Krypton (Part 3), though he first fights robo-suits stolen from LexCorp. An errant missile fired from a LexCorp suit strikes a plane, causing Superman to save it. (There’s just something about a flying man catching a weighty flying machine that comes across as iconic.)
20 years later, the movie “Superman Returns” would have Lois on a genuine space shuttle which Superman has to rescue as part of his first public re-appearance after a five year absence. Very likely this was cribbing a bit from the John Byrne story. I can’t complain since the entire sequence is one of the highlights of the film.
The finale of Smallville, which I did not see (gave up on that show after season 1), has Superman rescuing Air Force One in his costume for the first time.
Every single one of these stories has one thing in common: the sudden appearance of a super-powered brightly-costumed flying man who saves lives, lifts heavy objects, does a good deed, smiles at the public, and flies away leaving everyone in awe.
So, of course, the “Man of Steel” movie charts a new course by doing none of that. Superman’s just a laundry-stealing nobody who wanders America destroying personal property in ways that cannot be explained. Man of Steel’s defenders stress that Clark doesn’t know who he is and is still figuring out his way in life, which is why he hasn’t decided if he’s a guy who kills people or not. (Yeah, except that he’s 33 years old! Granted, they chose that age just to over-emphasize the Jesus angle, but it really does make it odd that he doesn’t have a career yet. It’s not like he’s 19 and backpacking across Europe. Oh, and the whole point of being raised by salt-of-the-Earth middle Americans is that you get raised with a moral code and a sense of responsibility, so that you aren’t a wandering bum…but I’ll save that argument for another time. Still…a moral person doesn’t let his dad run into a tornado to save the family dog in his place and then let him die just to protect his own ass.) Clark is only revealed to the world because Kryptonians who intend to kill everyone on Earth need a vital codex that he’s secreted somewhere, so they demand that he turn himself over to the military. He’s just an alien in hiding who first appears standing in the desert wearing a weird costume to surrender himself to the military. All the public knows is that some aliens went to Metropolis and began flattening millions of people on both ends of the Earth into mush. (The filmmakers want it to be horrific, though they don’t show you a single dead or mangled body, so you could be forgiven for thinking it was all abandoned buildings and vehicles.) Then one of the aliens started fighting the others, caused skyscrapers to be destroyed, and finally snapped the neck of the alien leader.
Side note: I never really thought about it before, but these new Kryptonians are keeping with the Zeitgeist of the times. Instead of ostentatiously flying around showing off their powers, a la Superman II, they just send out low-quality video messages of blackened figures making demands of the public, and then later they begin destroying towers and firetrucks and killing massive amounts of people without warning as part of their campaign where everyone who isn’t part of their new order will be dead. You know. Like…well, the terrorists who’ve been fighting us for decades. I won’t say what they are, but it rhymes with Babical Bizlam.
Anyway, this is a horrible way to introduce Superman. Granted, he fights Zod. We don’t see him rescue anyone during the fight, or rescue trapped people afterward, or clean up debris (remember the months it took to search for survivors and then remains while carting away all the wreckage at Ground Zero, which was just a relative handful of tall buildings?), or fly someone to a hospital, or even simply smile that Superman smile one time! He then destroys valuable military property that we all pay for out of our taxes just to be a jerk about it.
The entire premise of this new Superman vs. Batman movie is about how miserable the first movie was in establishing Superman’s persona, that it couldn’t even get across the idea that he is a good guy! It’s a plot, sure, but how far do you have to go from the general concept of Superman? Why, in the 20 languishing years of Superman’s development, does Superman get bounced back and forth amongst writers, producers and directors who hate that the product is about a big blue flying boy scout in a red cape and shorts who follows a moral code and lives his life for others? Why can’t Superman be an inspiring fantasy, like Harry Potter or Star Wars, instead of an angsty, humorless, brooding loner in dark armor? We’ve already got Batman for that!
Superman Returns was a disappointment due to Lois Lane being a 22-year-old single mom with a five year old kid in a distracting subplot that didn’t make either Lois or Superman come off particularly well, but that airplane scene knew what Superman was all about. I got more of a giddy thrill from seeing Superman facing off against the minigun-wielding criminal at the bank than I got from the entire Man of Steel movie.
Superman is supposed to be iconic, not so dark that he can be mistaken for Darth Vader from afar, an experience I had when seeing a standee at the grocery store. See, the red shorts are part of that icon, a point which DC and the filmmakers seem to loathe but Warner Brothers knows well enough since most of the general-public merchandise they produce still includes the bright costume with the yellow belt and red shorts. The public LIKES the bright smiling guy! We don’t want midnight-blue Underoos for our kids; why do they think we would hate the big blue boy scout if he was on the big screen?
Here’s hoping the new movie can show us a more inspiring Superman. Although the frowny, humorless, dark-tinted looks of Wonder Woman and Aquaman don’t give me much confidence.
Yes, I know. We’re back to the default theme. But hey, at least the site is back up!
Back in August, I was informed that there was an infection of some of the WordPress files in ALL of my blogs (including some that are effectively invisible!), and if I didn’t purge the infected files my entire site would be taken down. That rendered all blogs inoperable, and since then I’ve had a dickens of a time getting these problems fixed.
See…I’m moving. All of my time since March of this year has been spent packing boxes and decluttering this household. I didn’t have any time for anything else until December 1! On top of that, I’ve had to redo my computer with a new motherboard, and reinstalling software has been difficult because all of my physical software is in storage! I don’t have my audio editing software or equipment, or my video equipment, or video software. I don’t even have DreamWeaver back.
But I got the site up, finally, with the help of folks at Powweb. Barely. I don’t know why, but whenever I try to use anything but the basic theme, it doesn’t work. I’ll get on that. But at the very least…it’s HERE!
You know how horrible it’s been having a pop culture geek blog when there’s a new Star Wars movie…and the blog isn’t working?!?!
Patrick McNee the actor famous to most of us for playing John Steed on the original Avengers television show, passed away today. From Variety:
Macnee, who played John Steed in the spy-fi show, died with his family at his bedside.
“Wherever he went, he left behind a trove of memories,” a statement on the actor’s website read. “Patrick Macnee was a popular figure in the television industry. He was at home wherever in the world he found himself. He had a knack for making friends, and keeping them.”
“The Avengers” initially focused on Dr. David Keel (Ian Hendry) and his assistant (Macnee), but Macnee’s famously bowler hat wearing, umbrella-wielding intelligence officer (he never used a gun) became the protagonist when Hendry exited the series. Macnee played the part alongside a succession of strong, female partners, including Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg and Joanna Lumley. The show ran from 1961 and 1969 and was reprised in the 1970s.
Condolences to his family. I’m sure he will be missed.
I never watched the show myself, but it is on my list and I appreciate the actor’s contribution to our popular culture and our niche culture.
An excellent soundtrack will work so well that you aren’t aware of how it’s manipulating you. Oh, you’ll hear it and perhaps enjoy it, but you aren’t truly cognizant of how essential it is to the experience until you see raw footage and realize most of the emotional thrust of a moment was the music. Without that, and a good sound effect engineer, you just have uncomfortably awkward moments with Chewbacca screeching like a cockatiel.
Good Lord! How pivotal were John Williams and Ben Burtt?!!! Yeesh!
In Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, there’s a…
Okay, I know it’s not a great movie. It’s a good movie, and at the time we all appreciated that it gave everyone in the cast a moment or two to shine, but the ending is a snoozer. Still, it’s got some great moments. One of the highlights is “Stealing the Enterprise,” mainly due to the soundtrack by James Horner.
Why the soundtrack? It’s not just the thrill of the soaring horns once the doors open, it’s the entire piece…and how it plays you. Because this scene shouldn’t work at all.
How much tension is there, really, in Scotty’s trouble getting the doors to open? Is the Enterprise going to smash into the doors? Are they going to fail in their attempt and all go to prison? So how can there be tension in this scene?
But James Horner pulls it off.
James Horner composed the sountracks to 125 films, many of which played a big part of my life, including many hours spent listening to them on CD. He died Monday in a plane crash, only 61 years of age. R.I.P.
This strikes me as extremely wrong but I cannot place my finger on exactly why.
Just based on the clips this appears to start in the second season of the Welsh series with David Tennant. Perhaps they are just promoting it that way.
I obviously have nothing prepared.
This not only gives you a great recap of DC and Marvel history, it explains why DC is so dark and serious now. And it’s on the money.
I’ve been meaning to post this for ages:
Now that’s what I call …
Use of the Unreliable Narrator,
am I right?
Full disclosure right up front. Christopher “Chris” Jones is a friend that I see at the Midwest Comic Book Association cons in Minnesota, and we’ve known each other for about a decade. We talk on Facebook, but I’ve never had him over for dinner or helped him move, so that’s made clear our level of friendship.
Not…I mean…it’s not like I’d deny him dinner if he was in town.
Chris has been making a name for himself as the go-to guy at DC Comics for comic books based on animated series. From various Batman animated-style books to “Young Justice,” Chris has expertly captured the varying animated styles. Because he’s a cartoony-style artist, right?
Actually…no. He’s got a lot of art muscles he hasn’t been able to show off with his Cartoon Network assignments, and the new sci-fi book “Parallel Man” allows him to showcase his l33t skillz.
“Parallel Man” tells the story of one alternate Earth (The Ascendancy) that has decided to invade other alternate Earths to loot their resources and enslave their populations, and one renegade, Agent Morgan, who has other plans. This first issue involves a chase sequence on floating bikes that takes place across several alternate Earths.
The science fiction isn’t really anything new to comics, where alternate Earths go back to the days of Gardner Fox, but the specifics of the premise are intriguing. The action is exciting without being too violent. Reading this, I began to realize how warped my expectations have gotten from the last 10 years of reading the increasingly gruesome violence of the DC Universe. In one scene, the Ascendency grabs two suspects and I was surprised to see that it didn’t include a bloody execution! (I hope that isn’t a spoiler.) That’s actually rather refreshing. It hearkens back to the days when comics were beautiful and action packed without death and dismemberment left and right.
Even if the story doesn’t trip your trigger, it is worth it for the art alone. Chris gets to invent whole new worlds every few pages. After a decade of needing to stick on-model for every TV imitation comic he was doing, it must feel good to cut loose…and I think it shows on the page.
You can order Parallel Man: Invasion America in comics shops right now with Diamond code Aug141505. Parallel Man #1 hits shelves October 8, 2014. It will also be on Comixology.
I was skimming TitanTV.com for tonight’s broadcast television schedule and I clicked the episode for tonight’s Wonder Woman on MeTV. I found the title and the summary of the episode to be remarkably incongruous.
Wonder WomanWSYMDT2 – 47.2 – Sat, 8/09, 8:00 PM 1 hr“My Teenage Idol Is Missing”9/22/1978, Action, Sci-fi, Fantasy, Family, AdventureThe Amazons crush the war god, Ares, and Zeus charges them to hold him prisoner as warriors on a secret island; centuries later, an U.S. Air Force pilot is lured to crash land on the island and the commotion allows Ares to escape.
I would never expect the title for a show about the war god Ares to be “My Teenage Idol is missing” although I suppose that fits overall with that particular series.
Now Lord of the Rings is such a basis for so many tropes, elements, and now-cliches in more or less half of the genre that we cover here, or perhaps ALL OF THE GENRES we cover here, depending on what you or your average literature major judge, that even though I had not read the books before I saw the movie, I knew how the movie(s) was/were going to go. Almost none of these movies spoil me because I am genre-savvy. Therefore I am genre-savvy enough to anticipate events with the foundation-story.
Naturally role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons have Tolkien to thank for their lore, their content.
DM of the Rings, DM standing for Dungeon Master, operated under the premise that the foundation for much of our fan-favorite fantasy fiction did not exist, albeit with something else to inspire the stuff, and the specifics first appeared as a roleplaying game.
I read much of this….. I don’t remember where I was… I think a local all-night coffeehouse in East Lansing, way way back in the day. I remember rainy nights. I loved those. Bad internet. Barely enough plugs and outlets for a college town with one wifi-enabled coffee shop.
Nothing I can say can really match the quote I used…. well, I could write something that is as good, but the theology seems inappropriate for this blog….. maybe on Apologies Demanded.
From Jim MacQuarrie:
The Iron Giant is the purest illustration of faith ever recorded.
It’s not just that the giant chooses to be Superman; it’s that he does so in the face of all reason and evidence. He looks like a monster; he’s a giant metal man from space who shoots lasers out of his eyes and can crush cars in his fingers. Every fiber of his being screams that he is the metal monster from space sent to destroy us all, everyone he meets is afraid of him, he has every reason to see himself as others see him, and yet…
…he chooses, through sheer force of will alone, to reject his origin and nature and become Superman, a character he bears no resemblance to at all. He has no reason to want to be Superman, not one thing to suggest that he CAN be Superman, nothing except Hogarth’s word for it, and that’s good enough. By faith alone, he declares that he is Superman, and when the need arises, it turns out that he IS Superman, simply because he had faith that he could be.
from the author/artist/cartoonist Mark Engblom:
One of my favorite comic book concepts has always been Captain Marvel and the power of SHAZAM. A clever synthesis of modern and ancient mythology, the story of Captain Marvel began in Whiz Comics #2 (1940) as orphan Billy Batson was drawn to a mysterious underground chamber. He was met by SHAZAM, a wizard who could channel the power of ancient heroes…all of whom were inscribed as a handy acronym on a nearby wall. Speaking the wizard’s name, Billy was magically transformed into the superhero Captain Marvel, who also possessed the abilities of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury.
As cool as the concept will always be, that acronym of gods, heroes, and a Hebrew king continues to fascinate me. I love the child-like simplicity of its assumption that mythic figures would freely share their power with mortals…but my adult cynicism often kicks in and suggests another story behind the wizard’s consolidation of godly power. In other words, it’s…
SHAZAM: The Art of the Deal!
Oh, Weird Al. My favorite musician for 30+ years.
The only reason I’m not a member of the Close Personal Friends of Al is that Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz sent my check for $14 back a year later to say that “Polka Party” had flopped and they were kind of thinking that Weird Al Yankovic was over, so the fan club was no more.
I probably should have reapplied at some point.
Sometime back, listening to Weird Al albums became a different kind of experience. Instead of loving the parodies of pop tunes I recognized in the 1980s and 1990s, now I was having to research who the recording artists are and what their original songs sound like. (To be fair, when I was 12, I’d no idea what “Yoda” was based on, either.)
What makes it worse, is that Weird Al is now a far superior singer/musician in comparison to most of the people that he is parodying these days. You notice that his original songs are musically challenging and whimsically inventive, but then every other track on his album has to be a monotonous redo (with better lyrics) of an over-autotuned piece of repetitive junk.
I am loving his new album so far. His first video, Tacky, has a good song, but the video mainly benefits from the superstar guest appearances with goofy dances.
The second video is a huge improvement, with fun animation and lots of inside jokes .
Did ya catch that the homework is graded by Mrs. Krabapple? (Oh, and the song is a huge improvement over “Blurred Lines”)
Then “Foil”, a great song based on a horrible song.
You gotta love the heel turn that the video suddenly makes!
WHY I WON’T BE WATCHING FOX’S “GOTHAM” THIS FALL:
Back in 1981, in a story called “To Kill a Legend” in DETECTIVE COMICS #500, artist Dick Giordano and I created a character named Barbara Kean, the fiancée of Lt. James Gordon. (This was set on a parallel Earth where counterparts of the “real” Batman and his cast were twenty years younger.) A Golden Age “Mrs. James Gordon” (no first or maiden name) had appeared in 1951, mother of a son named Tony, but my character, later picked up by talented writers like Frank Miller and Barbara Randall Kesel, was clearly the prototype (with the same first name) for the “Post-Crisis” first wife of Lt. James Gordon, and—as Barbara Kean Gordon—became a supporting player in Batman continuity, and even made two movie appearances in BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT.
And this fall on GOTHAM, Fox’s prequel to the Batman mythos, one of the supporting characters will be…Barbara Kean, fiancée of Lt. James Gordon.
Ironically enough, on the same day that DC’s online news site listed the results of a fan poll in which I was chosen one of “the 75 greatest Batman artists/writers,” an executive at DC Entertainment—let’s call him “Johnny DC”—dismissed my request for “equity” (a percentage of income received when a character you create is used in other media) in the character. The justification? Because I had given her the same name, profession, and appearance as her daughter (at the time, just a sly wink to the reader), she was “derivative” of her daughter Barbara (Batgirl) Gordon and equity “is not generally granted” in derivative characters like wives, husbands, daughters, sons, etc., of existing characters: “this is the criteria by which all equity requests are measured.”
I then pointed out to him that writer Mark Waid had been told by then-DC management that DC did, in fact, give equity in “derivative” characters, just a smaller percentage—and indeed Mark and artist/co-creator Mike Wieringo received equity in the “derivative” character of Bart Allen/Impulse (grandson of Barry Allen/Flash) and received payments when he was used on SMALLVILLE. I suggested DC grant a similar reduced percentage on Barbara Kean, and I was willing to limit this to her appearances on GOTHAM and forget the movies.
How did Johnny DC respond to this? Did he rebut my argument? Nope. When confronted with the, shall we say, lack of veracity of his statement, he simply stopped responding to my emails.
Now, let me be clear: I’ve since learned that the amount of money involved here can be as little as $45 an episode for a full equity character. So clearly I’m not in this for the money, but the principle. This is small change compared to the fact that the estate of Jack Kirby receives no share of the billions in dollars that Marvel/Disney makes from movies based on characters he co-created. But I suspect DC counts on the fact that the money is low enough that hiring an attorney to pursue it would cost more than you’d ever receive in equity payments. They also count on the fact that their freelancers depend on DC for work and thus will not publicly call them out. (And sometimes these freelancers are the very ones for whom that little bit of extra money would mean a lot.)
But as a novelist I depend in no way on DC for my livelihood, and have no problem recounting the bad faith they have demonstrated to me. But I take little satisfaction in it. There was a time—under the management of Jenette Kahn, Paul Levitz, and Dick Giordano—when DC went to great lengths to credit and compensate creators. They felt it was money well spent, because it brought other creators to the company and everyone benefited. I was actually proud to be associated with a comics company with a conscience. I hope my experience with the “new” DC is not typical, and that they still have a conscience. But I sure don’t see it from where I sit.
(If you’re a fan of my comics work, feel free to share.)
Chubby comedian John Pinette, who jokes about buffets and Italian food, acted in “The Punisher,” Dr. Katz, the last episode of Seinfeld, and on stage in Hairspray, has been found dead in his hotel room at age 50.
I’m going to miss him a lot. I own his album, a DVD, I caught his latest show on Netflix, and I always liked him. R.I.P.
A farewell to James Rebhorn, who was in a ton of stuff, but I will always think of him as the SecDef in Independence Day. Turns out he had been fighting cancer for 22 years. R.I.P.