I interviewed Black Lightning’s creator about 15 years ago and he said that he’d kiss Sinbad for the job he did on this one.
Archive for the ‘DC Comics’ Category
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.
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 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.
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!
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.)
What’s the one thing everyone is going to remember about Man of Steel in five years?*SNAP!*
I haven’t even watched this yet, because it’s almost 30 minutes long. All I can say is…”Rich boy” better be in there!
Don’t read the spoiler until it’s over.
How is it that fan films can get the essence of these heroes and yet a person given an entire TV pilot can’t capture Wonder Woman right?
Comic Book Resources reports the story. It does not mention the cause. The article chronicles the start and finish of the DC Animated Universe, from Batman: The Animated Series to Justice League Unlimited. The article also does not fail to credit the other co-architects of that Batman cartoon. Timm’s last work in his former role was the second chapter THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. Bruce Timm is being replaced by James Tucker, another DCAU creative.
My enthusiasm for all of these projects is less than my joy every minute of Justice League Unlimited, with its own continuity and well-built world.
Over on Chuck Dixon’s web site, he has a messageboard thread about his 100 best stories (in the opinion of his readers). These are my contributions to that thread.
Most comic book writers, if they want to bring up politics, just have the character that they like spout their politics.
Case in point: Angel O’Dare crossing Times Square and trashing Giuliani the whole way in a voice that doesn’t even sound like Angel’s in the Vertigo version of “Angel and the Ape.”
It’s not tied in with the story at all, or prompted by anything. It’s just Chaykin spouting off via the character who is his voice.
Perhaps Alfred the butler will take a moment to lament to Batman about how cruel fox-hunting is, even though the anti-aristocracy slant and the mere fact that Alfred is sharing his opinions in a rant instead of a one-liner both seem way out of character.
Or we get “Batman: Seduction of the Gun” or “Batman: Death of Innocence” or that story where Green Arrow watches a nun step on a land mine and then looks inside the land mine to see that his company manufactured it (because a human being’s first instinct is to look at the inside cover of an exploded land mine after someone has died). Stories that are all one-sided diatribes about a great evil in the world that is beyond the superhero’s capacity to resolve. Where statistics are delivered during quiet moments of extended dialogue between two characters.
You could almost be forgiven for thinking that Chuck Dixon just never does any “important stories” because you wouldn’t recognize them as such.
Here’s how Chuck Dixon handles “tonight on a very special Birds of Prey”.
Birds of Prey #7, “The Villain”.
Chuck takes on, of all things, Slobodon Milosevic, via a proxy. In this story, Black Canary must escort an Eastern European general to his trial while avoiding soldiers and other people who want him dead. As they dodge gunfire, Dinah makes it clear she doesn’t like the guy; she just thinks he deserves to be convicted by the world instead of murdered. However, as they run and dodge and sneak and fight, the general makes a couple of good points. She chastises him for having women working in sweatshops. He points out that if not for the factories, which are considered good jobs to have, the women would be working backbreaking labor in the fields, or worse. When they are finally cornered, the general saves Dinah’s life and takes a bullet meant for her. Dinah, having failed in her mission, owing her life to a man she resents and no longer as certain of herself, departs.
Chuck’s character, that is to say the character that he likes, Black Canary, takes on the general liberal view (indeed, the general public’s view) that any dictator is a monster, and it’s a position that most of the readers will easily agree with in the beginning. The political points made in the story are precisely what such a person would be saying in his defense, and they are debatable (but for many readers will be entirely new information). There is no letter column at the end that prompts anyone to get involved with the issue, call a phone number and make a difference. Nobody acts out of character to make the story work. Indeed, it is Dinah’s moral character which is put to the test.
In the end, you have a single-issue story that doesn’t try to get you aping a viewpoint at the end, but prompts you to think about aspects of an issue that you may never have considered, all while entertaining and providing some intense drama. Most of all, it may prompt you to read it again…always the sign of a great comic book.
This recap, by the way, is from memory. I sold all of my early BoP issues because they were going for big bucks. But I miss this one. (It’s also the debut of the electronic canary cry.)