More on The Warlord – a supplement to a prior blog!

A supplement to a prior blog:

See my original review of the Bronze age comic book Warlord from DC Comics.

To quote my review of the series Warlord: “(issue #2’s) … story does not end in a cliffhanger per se, as had the previous issue, but it had an open ending. Yet “The End” was prominently written on the final page. Did Messers. Grell and Orlando know this was the last issue? Did they know it would come back in a few months?”

 

Scoop is an excellent e-newsletter and I recommend anyone who enjoys my blog to subscribe.

Recently Scoop featured an interview with Mike Grell and he addressed Warlord’s hiatus:

“ … when I turned in pages I would pick up the letter pages and stand in the office and read through it, proofread to make sure there were no errors that needed sent back for corrections before I did the finished inks, when it came to issue 3, I was in Joe’s office and at the end of the book instead of saying “Next Issue” it said “The End.” I turned to Joe and said, “This is wrong. It says ‘The End’ but it should say ‘Next Issue.’” Joe said, “Yeah, well, Carmine cancelled the book.” I said, “He can’t do that, he promised me a year’s run.” And Joe says, “Yeah, well, he lied. He does that.”

“Fortunately for me and for the Warlord, within a couple of weeks Carmine Infantino was out and Jenette Kahn arrived on the scene. It turned out that Jenette was a pretty astute cookie and she had studied the entire lineup very thoroughly before she ever took over the company. I come to find out that Warlord was one of her favorite books. She looked at the production schedule and said, “Where’s the Warlord?” I told her, “Well, Carmine cancelled it.” She said, “Carmine’s not here anymore, put it back.” So that’s how Warlord got continued on past issue 3.”

 

So the mystery is solved!

 

Read the entire interview, where he also talks about his time on the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Interview with Mike Grell ©2017 Gemstone Publishing, Inc., Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, Diamond International Galleries, and/or the Fandom Advisory Network. They hold all rights.

 

What Might Have Been: the CW’s Constantine

A DC-TV Primer: the CW Network’s superhero lineup

? … Maybe someday … Constantine

 

From Wikipedia (as I said before, if they are going to do the work FOR me …):

CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SEASON the ONLY (so far)

John Constantine, a demon hunter and dabbling master of the occult, must struggle with his past sins while protecting the innocent from the converging supernatural threats that constantly break through to our world due to the “Rising Darkness”. Balancing his actions upon the line of good and evil, Constantine uses his skills and a supernatural scry map to journey across the nation to send these terrors back to their own world, all for the hope of redeeming his soul from eternal torment.

***

            Rumors of Constantine becoming the fifth DC-CW show were just that – and became wishful thinking among fans of the show.

Like me.

Only the most zombie-like of Marvel zombies will refuse to admit that DC’s horror comics were better than Marvel’s horror comics; even well into the 1990s when Constantine the comic book was in full vigor. (“What about DC’s Wasteland?” “Shut up.”)

Even in their super-hero line, horror would rear its misshapen head with characters like the Phantom Stranger, the Spectre and Dr. Fate – two of those three had fun Easter egg references in Constantine’s run. The show even had the Justice League’s baddie Felix Faust in an episode!

Constantine would have been a repository of all things supernatural in CW’s superhero universe.

Too bad the show was doomed from the start.

 

It had the usual Berlanti Production touches: the main character had a team of followers behind him helping with that episode’s problems. Oh sure after the pilot episode they dumped his first female companion for another without a word, but that happens with pilots. I guess.

Chas was to John Constantine what Diggle is to Arrow – muscle when needed. Like Diggle, he is knowledgeable about the goings-on of the show. He has helped Constantine in the time before the show and does not need an explanation about what kind of baddie he is fighting. He has his own arcane powers that are revealed slowly during the show. Charles Halford plays him wonderfully.

The audience conduit is played by Angelica Celaya as Zed. John and Chas explain that week’s Big Bad to us through her. Her arcane powers of divination help with necessary shortcuts in the show (otherwise how would Constantine know about evil doings in New Orleans?). She is also a great actress playing a great character.

I liked the underused Harold Perrineau as Manny – an angel ally of Constantine but still a pain in the main character’s backside. Although he seemed to be on Constantine’s side, he also seemed to have a different agenda. Constantine didn’t trust him. I didn’t either… He would have played a larger role in the series had it continued (as the final aired episode clearly showed).

 

There was a Big Bad who was (presumably) going to duke it out with our hero in the season finale. Unlike the other Berlanti shows, we never knew who the Big Bad was until late into the season. In fact, the main villain was revealed in the last broadcast show – ending in a bit of a cliff-hanger. It is likely we will never see it resolved.

And mcguffins abounded in the show – there was always a talisman or other thingumabob that Constantine and his crew discovered that would defeat the bad guy (be it human or demon) after the initial failed confrontation. But here it worked. Using a magical devise to defeat the Big Bad makes sense in this supernatural setting…

Perhaps the horror element made us forget this by-now over-used CW super-hero plot device.

 

The original character was based on the musician Sting, but actor Matt Ryan made the character his own. He played Constantine with an exhausted charm. You want to have a drink with him – then run away as fast as you can!

He seemed tired and confused (that is, drunk) most of the time. With his trench coat, he was something of a horror-themed Columbo with a northern British accent. But like Columbo, he always knew what he was facing and (sometimes) knew what he was doing. True, at times it didn’t work …

And intended or not, the thought of Kolchak always bubbled below the surface…

 

One highlight episode was “The Devil’s Vinyl” featuring a satanic LP. The show introduces sometimes ally/sometimes villain Papa Midnite.

 

Perhaps the character will pop up again in the other DC-CW shows as he did in his wonderful appearance in a fourth-season Arrow episode, when Flash, Supergirl or Arrow (again) needs some supernatural help.

constantine_2

I would hate to see them waste an excellent character played by an excellent actor.

All of the episodes are available on CW-Seed. Find them and watch them.

And Happy Halloween!

download

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned and their images are copyright their respective holders.  Thanks to DC Comics, the CW Network and Berlanti Productions and the actors portrayed for the use of their images.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated (gratmens during the credits aside).

 

DC Legends of Tomorrow, a primer

A DC-TV Primer: the CW Network’s superhero lineup

Thursday: Legends of Tomorrow

From Wikipedia (as I said before, if they are going to do the work FOR me …):

CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SEASON ONE

After the murder of his family by immortal dictator Vandal Savage, time master Rip Hunter travels back in time to the present day where he brings together a team of heroes and villains (Atom, White Canary, Firestorm, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Captain Cold, and Heat Wave) in an attempt to prevent Savage from destroying the world. However, they are opposed by the Time Masters, an organization from the future dedicated to protect and manipulate the timeline as they see fit and a body to which Hunter had sworn allegiance. During their early adventures, they are hunted by the Time Master’s agent Chronos.

***

            Lordie do people dislike this show. Go to IMDB and read some of the reviews.

Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s not THAT bad.

Isn’t it?

I liked the show! I look forward to watching it and am happy when I see it on my Tivo every Friday morning.

But after writing this review I realized there were parts – big parts – that I didn’t like.

In the end I decided the show was a mixed bag.

 

The premise itself is part of the problem: it’s the Gilligan’s Island syndrome. Once they defeat Vandal Savage, the show is over! SPOILER: The last episode proves this out. The gang breaks up and only some of them come back!

 

The show is not as dark as Arrow (despite its premise) and has light moments that rival Flash. The time-travelling premise should be liberating, but instead it seems limiting.

We KNOW they won’t finally confront Savage until the season finale, so the battles with him are incidental from the very beginning.

 

The show provides us with Easter eggs harkening to their DC comics’ roots…

Jonah Hex’s appearance was a highlight.

Finding Per Degaton as a youth made for some interesting moral debates: would you kill Hitler-as-a-child if you could?

Characters from other DC-CW shows pop up; notably Quentin Lance. We spy alternate futures including Diggle’s son taking up the Green Arrow mantel. They are careful in the future – not wanting to spoil anything. But they are also careful in the past when they did not have to be.

Professor Stein, Captain Cold and even Rip Hunter meeting their younger selves provided some good moments, but even I was confused when they snatched some team members as newborns. That plot-thread was quickly forgotten and wrapped up on the next show before the opening credits.

I found the multi-part arc in the 1950s especially disappointing. Racial hatred was only just touched upon. Maybe it was because the story was in Washington state. Jax’s flirtation and dating a white girl created some trouble with goons, but it was no worse than were he beat up by a jealous boyfriend rather than bigots.

Meanwhile, Ray Palmer and Kendra Saunders play a mixed race couple who move into the neighborhood with only the slightest double-takes from the neighbors. Maybe Washingtonians were more progressive in the late 1950s than I thought.

They should have taken a chance and placed the story arc in Old Miss. But I don’t think CW wanted to do that.

 

One complaint that I had about the show from the beginning was the dialogue. Sometimes the characters quipped without having anything to say. Did the actors have to have an equal number of lines? Did the writers once in a while say, “Mick hasn’t spoken for a while…”

I noticed one scene where the camera panned left to right. As the camera passed, each character had a line. People don’t speak in the order in which they are standing.

 

***

            So what DID I like about it?

The characters!

Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell stole every scene as Captain Cold and Heat Wave (although they were mostly called by their civilian names Leonard Snark and Mick Rory). The duo was my favorite part of the show, despite my initial fear that they would be its weakest link (villains? They couldn’t come up with two other heroes?)! The occasional “I like this guy,” from Rory always made me giggle.

Best line of the show was Rory’s: “I need you to burn something.” “About time…”

Snark’s slow turn from bad guy to almost-good guy was the best part of the show. “Why do you care about any of them?” Rory would ask. “I don’t, but they’re on my team, and you watch out for your team.”

Nice.

So was Rory’s very very slowly developing friendship with Ray Palmer.

Speaking of him, Brandon Routh still channels his inner Christopher Reeve. He was excellent as Superman and very good as the Atom. I just don’t think he is given much to work with here. His eccentricity in Arrow became flightiness here.

His romance with Kendra Saunders was not very convincing. Plus the constant reminder that she is meant only for Carter Hall wears thin.

Saunders meeting her previous incarnation in the Old West was a fun few minutes, though.

Both characters were more interesting and better done in Flash and Arrow.

Poor Sarah Lance (the White Canary), despite being played excellently by Caity Lotz, seems bored. The few times the show focuses on her are excellent: her falling for a nurse in the 1950s and rebuffing Snart’s hesitant advances. Maybe the writers weren’t sure what to do with her and her powers. She kicks butt, true, but what can she do against a robot as tall as a skyscraper? Hopefully she will be back on Arrow soon providing some grist for that mill should Legends fail to keep up good ratings.

I like Victor Garber as Professor Martin Stein; always pontificating and irritating his team while providing the viewer exposition. He talks down to the team to provide exposition for the viewer. His “partner” is Franz Dramah as Jax. Their friendship was only explored occasionally and we need more of it.

Arthur Darvill as Rip Hunter was also wonderful. His Ahab-like need for vengeance wore pretty thin, though. Savage killed his wife and son! Yes, we know, we were told in the opening credits and two or three times every show – even shows that don’t really feature Savage.

I wish Casper Crump were given more to do as Vandal Savage than preen and smirk. His final battles in the season finale were very good, though.

***

            The show was an exemplary example of Berlanti Productions #1 rule of a Big Bad who fights the heroes throughout the season culminating in the season finale.

But fortunately the nature of the show made it nearly impossible for Rule #2: bad guy (or gal) appears, heroes fight him or her and gets whipped. Team finds flaw and makes a macguffin to defeat bad guy. Arrow does it, Flash does it, even Supergirl. Legends? Not so much.

***

            It’s not a perfect show, but it is fun to watch, and that’s the whole point isn’t it?

***

So what’s next for our legends? It looks from the previews that the show is entering into Doctor Who territory – going to different times and meeting the famous and infamous.

They will be repairing the timeline.

They will also be meeting more heroes (and villains) from the DC roster: Vixen will join as will Steel. They meet the Justice Society of America.

And fight the Legion of Doom! Malcolm Merlin, Damien Darhk, Captain Cold (what!?) and the Reverse Flash gather together to try to defeat our heroes.

I’ll be there. Will you?

 

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned and their images are copyright their respective holders.  Thanks to DC Comics, the CW Network and Berlanti Productions and the actors portrayed for the use of their images.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated (gratmens during the credits aside).

 

The CW’s Supergirl, a review (part two)

A DC-TV Primer: the CW Network’s superhero lineup

Monday: Supergirl

Part Two

My review of Supergirl begins here.

 

I love the show, I do, but it is not without its problems …

Cat Grant (a character from the Modern Age (post-1986) of Superman) is one of the few characters that tend to plod down the story. She’s not a villain, in fact she is key in getting the world to love Supergirl and not fear her, but is still cold and self-centered CEO.  She is shallow almost to the point of being flighty. The staff of Catco (including Kara) sycophantically acquiesce to her every whim for fear of being fired and black-balled from the industry. It is good in small doses, but like Spider-Man’s J Jonah Jameson, the character wears thin pretty quickly.

Of course, a woman who works her way to the top in her field HAS to be tough and cold, I suppose. That seems to be their message. Maybe I don’t agree with that; maybe that’s why I role my eyes when the character stomps out of the elevator onto her first scene of every episode. She has the power of an Oprah without the humanity. Cat Grant would never give away a fleet of cars.

Attempts to humanize her are forgotten or fall flat. Her interest in Kara being a foster child, for example. The one line (“that is not uninteresting.” – I paraphrase), brings the hope of a non-two-dimensional moment. Her adult son comes to National City and mother and child try to make amends. We get to see how she became the way she is through the visit of her unloving and shrewish mother.

It is quickly forgotten by the next episode.

When kidnapped by a supervillain, she begs for her life for the sake of her children. By this point I do not know if she is sincere or just buying time…

This is no slight on Calista Flockhart – she does a wonderful job with what she has. She looks like Holly Go Lightly but talks and acts like Maude.

But with Cat Grant, a little goes a long way.

Calista Flockhart will only have a few cameos in Season Two, which may or may not be a good thing – if they keep the character as is, small doses is best.

 

I think they really missed the boat on the relationship with fellow nerd Winn (played by Jeremy Jordan). He was in love with Kara before she became Supergirl.  He revealed his feelings but it was glossed over in a few episodes. Now they are back to being good friends. Too bad. That could have been explored more – he loved Kara before she donned the cape and big red S. Has his affection changed now that she is Supergirl? Does he still love Supergirl, or are his affections aimed at Kara only? He never said, “I wish we could go back to where we were. I wish I could talk to Kara when she’s not Supergirl.” I think they missed a good thing there.

Kara’s maybe-romance with Jimmy Olsen (played excellently by Mehcad Brooks) continues to slowly bloom.

Speaking of Jimmy: knowing Supergirl’s identity and being Superman’s Pal gives the character a worldliness that Brooks plays quite well. He half-smiles at Cat Grant’s – er – cattiness. If he could he would turn his back and wink at the camera; just like Superman did in the 1960s cartoons. Once you’ve faced down Brainiac, not much unnerves you…

 

So now that the show is under the CW umbrella, what can we expect?

It was established on the wonderfully fun Flash-Supergirl meeting in the episode “World’s Finest” that Supergirl and her show take place in another dimension. Whether that is thrown out to make all DC-CW shows one world remains to be seen. With Flash and Legends of Tomorrow constantly tinkering with alternate realities, it can easily be done.

The first season was on CBS which meant it tried to be all things to all people. Now it can focus on a narrower audience. The three other Berlanti Production shows have a total of seven seasons between them all. And the most common denominator is the epic season-long fight with a specific super-villain, culminating in a senses-shattering free-for-all at season’s end/sweeps. It has almost become a joke. From Quenton Lance in Arrow (I paraphrase): “Someone’s threatening to destroy Starling City? It must be May!”

Supergirl had an epic villain (Non), but it was not the main focus of the season. In fact in a few shows he seemed forgotten. But the season-long story arc will likely happen with Season Two. Because of the nature of the heroes and villains, it might be earth-shattering and not as vanilla as it seemed on CBS.

That may not be fair. We take Arrow’s villains seriously because the characters are human. Flash is the same, only a little less due to the character’s powers. There is no way to forget that Supergirl is fantasy and that creates a disconnect that doesn’t exist in the other shows. Ra’s al Ghul is thus a scarier villain than a White Martian (being a more well-rounded character played by a superb actor aside…).

That being said Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow did it correctly. Other things happened during the season, too. There was story progression; not one long episode with no progression and no enjoyment – where you could skips months of programs and not lose any of the plot (kaff-agentsofshield-kaff).

Season Two will introduce a character names Maggie Sawyer from the National City police department.  Will she be an ally or an antagonist like Joe West on Flash or Quenton Lance on Arrow?

The press is all over TV’s Wonder Woman Lynda Carter appearing as the US President. Will she have a regular role or just appear occasionally?

Another item the press is gaga over is Superman’s larger role in the next Season. In Season One he is shown only in vague visions. Good move. This is Kara’s show. He would only have up-staged her at this point. He does contact Kara by texting her (“Need help?” “Are you all right?”), which was another good move: the show didn’t ignore him, but he wasn’t a deux ex machina saving the day every other episode, either. Hopefully he won’t steal Season Two.

 

Also in Season Two we will meet Mon-El, a member of the Legion of Super Heroes who started off as another youngster sent to earth from another planet. Unfortunately, he had amnesia and could not remember where he came from. Having the same powers as Superboy, he assumed, using comic book logic, that this stranger was his brother! We will see how Supergirl treats the story.

Because of what they did with “For the Man Who Has Everything” though, I’m not worried.

supergirl-cast-2

Up Next: the Flash

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned and their images are copyright their respective holders.  Thanks to DC Comics, the CW Network and Berlanti Productions and the actors portrayed for the use of their images.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated (gratmens during the credits aside).

 

The CW’s Supergirl, a review

A DC-TV Primer: the CW Network’s superhero lineup

Monday: Supergirl

Part One

From Wikipedia (why should I do all the work?):

CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SEASON ONE

Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) was sent to Earth from the doomed planet Krypton as a 12-year-old by her parents Zor-El (Robert Gant) and Alura (Laura Benanti). Alura gave her instructions to protect her infant cousin Kal-El, and informed her that she, like her cousin, would have extraordinary powers under Earth’s yellow sun.

En route to Earth, Kara’s spacecraft was diverted by a shock wave from Krypton’s explosion and forced into the Phantom Zone, where it stayed for 24 years. During this period, time stopped for Kara so, when the spacecraft eventually escaped the Phantom Zone, she still appeared to be a 13-year-old girl. By the time the spacecraft crash landed on Earth, Kal-El had grown up and become Superman. After helping her out of the craft, Superman took Kara to be adopted by his friends, the Danvers family. The main series begins more than a decade later when the now 24-year-old Kara is learning to embrace her powers after previously hiding them.

Kara hid her powers for more than a decade, believing that Earth didn’t need another hero. However, she has to reveal her powers to thwart an unexpected disaster, setting her on her own journey of heroism as National City’s protector. Kara discovers that hundreds of the criminals her mother prosecuted as a judge on Krypton are hiding on Earth, including her mother’s twin sister Astra (also played by Benanti) and Astra’s husband Non (Chris Vance), who seek to rule the world. After briefly becoming suspicious of the true agenda of her boss, Hank Henshaw (David Harewood), she and her adoptive sister, Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), secretly discover that Henshaw is actually a benevolent alien refugee, J’onn J’onzz, who has resided on Earth for over fifty years after escaping a holocaust on his homeworld of Mars. J’onn infiltrated the DEO to reform the organization as well as to watch over both Alex and Kara in addition to guiding the latter in the use of her powers due to his experience with his own abilities. Kara is also being targeted by Earth’s criminals as the result of her being related to Superman, and later on encounters an emerging community of metahumans and individuals from parallel universes. In the process, Kara accumulates her own rogues gallery who seeks to defeat and destroy her. She is aided by a few close friends and family who guard her secrets—most notably her cousin’s longtime friend, James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks)—which also serves as a major plot in high tech mogul Maxwell Lord’s (Peter Facinelli) scheme to expose Kara’s identity.

***

            I adore this show. The few things I do NOT like about it are minimal, honestly.

The show is wonderful fun. Like the Flash, Supergirl tells us how much she enjoys being a superhero. No dark and brooding angst about being a hero! What little angst there is deals with normal emotional turmoil – balancing work and play, love and commitment.  Just like the rest of us! But overall the show exudes joy.

This is even more amazing considering the content compared to other DC-CW shows: In Arrow the main villain could (and tries to) destroy Star(ling) City. In Flash the main villains want to destroy … well … the Flash. The villains in Supergirl have the power to destroy the earth and everyone in it, have lunch, and then destroy Venus for snicks and giggles. That could be absolutely terrifying! But it’s not.

Don’t take that to mean the show is lightweight, or aimed at children. It just shows how much unbridled fun the show is even during tense moments..

 

DC characters abound – from villains (Hellgrammite, White Martians) to secondary characters (Lucy Lane). All lovingly plucked from the comics.

There are plenty of DC Easter Eggs to bring a smile or to make us worry. In the comics, Hank Henshaw (here the head of the DEO) is, in the comics, the evil Superman-Cyborg. When the character from the show intimates that he has a deep dark secret, comic book fans raise their eyebrows. “Aha! He’s going to become the evil cyborg!” Is he?

The major difference to Supergirl’s comic book origins (which has been tweaked over the years) is the addition of her adopted sister Alex. It adds to the show and its characters and is not a bad idea. If DC decided to make it comic book canon, I would not object. Trouble is, in modern comics her life expectancy would be quite short.

One episode is a reworking of the best Superman story ever printed: Action Comics Annual #11’s “For the Man Who Has Everything” by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, with Supergirl trapped by the Black Mercy instead of the Man of Steel. When I saw the opening scene and the alien plant attached to Supergirl I about hit the floor! It was a great adaptation!

A nice non-comic book Easter egg is the casting of Dean Cain and Helen Slater as her adopted parents. Slater played Supergirl in the 1984 movie and Cain played Superman in Lois & Clark: the New Adventures of Superman. It is little things like this that bring a smile to this old cynic: Berlanti Productions gives a damn enough about the comics to give us these treats.

 

 

You can tell the cast enjoys what they are doing, too. Melissa Benoist is phenomenal as Supergirl. She portrays an innocence (and a young person’s temper and frustration) and yet she will not hesitate to let you know she could pinch your head off with her thumb and forefinger.  Frankly she is cuter as flighty and naïve Kara Danvers.  Kara is a slightly less of a She-Geek than Arrow’s Felicity Smoak, but you can’t help but compare. Imagine if Mary Tyler Moore played the role of Mary Richards at age 24. Benoist is that good.

 

The show has a few drawbacks, in my opinion: More on those next time.

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned and their images are copyright their respective holders.  Thanks to DC Comics, the CW Network and Berlanti Productions and the actors portrayed for the use of their images.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated (gratmens during the credits aside).

The CW Network’s Superhero line-up!

A DC-TV Primer: the CW Network’s superhero lineup,

Introduction

Note: I have never been sure of the proper way to stylize the names of books, movies and television shows. Some say to italicize the titles of books and put the titles of TV shows and movies in quotes. Some say it is the other way around. I do not care, frankly, I never have. As long as it is consistent throughout the piece I am reading. If the next blog or article or book then does something different – it doesn’t bother me as long as it is consistent within that same text. I italicize both comic book titles and movie and TV program names in this exercise. It may be wrong, but at least it is consistent.

 

When I think of the CW Network’s lineup of DC Comics superheroes my mind goes back to the fall of 1976.

At that time DC created what we would now call an imprint line of four comic books. An “imprint” is a series of comic books that are not necessarily part of the line’s mainstream comic. The imprint books share a similar theme. There have been imprints aimed solely at children, for example. The Image imprint featured comics with mature themes and art – not for the kids – with creator-owned characters. The Milestone imprint from DC comics was set in a comic book universe outside that of Superman and Batman and featured African American characters and creators.

In 1976 four comics were published by DC with a television theme. DC-TV they called it, and the company even changed its logo for these comic books. The four comics featured television shows that aired at the time (or were about to debut): Superfriends, Welcome Back Kotter and Isis (no, not that Isis) debuted. The fourth was Shazam (the adventures of the original Captain Marvel – but DC dare not use his name on any comic book covers lest Marvel Comics finally get their sweet litigious revenge on National Comics … but that is a whole other story), a comic that had been around for a few years but was on hiatus until the Saturday morning live-action show aired. Kotter and Isis lasted ten and eight issues respectively, Shazam started their TV run with #25 and lasted through #33; after that it changed its style for the next two issues before cancellation (although the character and title continue to be revived these forty years later). Superfriends lasted for several more years – until 1981 over 47 issues – boosted not only by the successful cartoon but also by the familiarity of the characters – Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Robin.

Reviews and commentary of those four comics would make a fun blog series … maybe given time I will do it!

Forward to 2016. Forty years on I am tickled to see history repeat itself with another DC-TV connection.

This fall season the CW network will air a superhero program based on DC characters each weeknight Monday through Thursday (the rumor of Constantine being added on Fridays are unfortunately untrue).

DC has published comic books based on the shows – or has added some of the television regulars to their existing continuity (in the Flash comic book for example).

This blog series will be a primer for those who (like me) are finally jumping into the new DC-TV pool of programs. I hope to discuss and review all four (maybe five) shows that are soon to begin their new seasons on the CW.

Starting your viewing at this point (particularly Arrow, which begins its fifth season) will only make you … Lost, if you get my meaning.

I promise that I will use spoiler alerts. But you will generally learn nothing that you won’t be able to find out on IMDB and on the “Previously on …” front tags of each show.

***

My only child turns seven in October, right around the time the CW will begin its new season. She loves to read and play games – whether board games or on the computer.

This means that my days of staring at a parade of purple dinosaurs, child explorers and a prime-colored Australian singing quartet are done. Oh, I still have to sit through Frozen every few days, or some other Disneyanic Princess derivation, but shows aimed at children … no more.

So of course I fill my time watching TV shows about super-heroes!!

Hey, you can’t watch the Sopranos all the time …

***

I heard good things about the CW line-up from Facebook and “real” (haha) friends and I was finally able to see what all their posts and comments were about.

Netflix has the first three seasons of Arrow and the first season of Flash available for binge-watching. The entire run of Constantine is available on the CW’s website, and the network is rerunning Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow until their new seasons start. CW is only running a few episodes from seasons four and two of Arrow and Flash respectively. I hope the entire season will soon be on Netflix or elsewhere before or during the new seasons. I don’t mind keeping the shows on Tivo for a few weeks while I catch up.

The only trouble is these shows are linked.

Don’t stop reading! By that I mean that the shows cross over, but they are not one long continued story. You won’t have to jump from one program to another! So don’t panic. In comic book terms, they share the same universe.

(They WILL do have a continued storyline during November sweeps – Supergirl will be chasing a villain through all four shows during one week.)

It’s been done. Remember when Murder She Wrote and Magnum PI had a continued story? There were two (I think) great Law & Order/Homicide shared storylines too. NBC was notorious for this in the 1980s and 1990s: one example is a hurricane hitting Florida affecting the plots of the Golden Girls, Nurses and Empty Nest all in one evening’s programming.

And who can forget the universal nexus of Sam’s General Store in the Beverly Hillbillies/Petticoat Junction/Green Acres?  (Try as I might … )

Here’s what I mean:

The explosion that opened the Flash series is mentioned in Arrow. When the character Arrow (note that the TV show is italicized, the character is not) changes his costume slightly, Flash mentions it. Flash and Arrow regular Felicity Smoak had a brief romance. Heroes, side-characters and villains would pop up in each other’s programs.

I watched Flash first. By the time of Flash season one, Arrow was in season three. It did not make for confused viewing, but it gave away some of the plot points when I later watched early Arrow episodes (we meet Felicity and Diggle in Season One of Arrow – will they be allies or enemies? It was fun to watch the development, but I already knew the outcome). And there WERE some spoilers, “I’m sorry to hear about so-and-so’s death.” Arrgh!

***

I will do my reviews in the order in which the episodes will air: Supergirl first, then Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow and finally Constantine (as of the writing of this blog series, Constantine has not yet been officially added to the line-up. I’ll discuss it anyway; I am a big fan of the show having finally seen it and would LOVE to have it added).

 

DC-TV.

 

Again.

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned and their images are copyright their respective holders.  Thanks to DC Comics, the CW Network and Berlanti Productions and the actors portrayed for the use of their images.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated (gratmens during the credits aside).

The Last Suicide Squad Movie Review (part 2)

In my last Suicide Squad blog I talked about the history of the Squad and a synopsis of the plot.

Let’s dig deeper:

I think most critics were put off by the fumbling opening of the film. It soured them to the rest of the movie.

Our heroes – er – villains were introduced in a very comic-booky sequence. Amanda Waller sat in a restaurant with men who may or may not have been her superiors. She plunked down a dossier of each of her recruits.

Deadshot! The screen fills with his stats. Then the movie flashed back to show the character and a bit of his background (in this case, his relationship with his daughter and eventual capture by Batman).

Harley Quinn! The screen fills with her stats!

Et cetera and so on…

Works for a comic book, not for a movie. It was as bad as an obvious info dump in a science fiction novel. “As you know Bob, we are on the first manned mission to Mars!” “Yes, I know, why are you telling me this?”

***

            You know what would have worked? They could have taken this entire twenty-minute introduction and put it online two weeks before the movie opened, either as a free download or on Youtube. Wherever.

Then they could open the movie twenty minutes in: with the bad guy doing his thing in Midway City and then showing the Special Forces dragging the Squad from their cells and on to their mission.

Of course if you missed the preview you might be a little lost at first. “How can we introduce all these characters in one movie and get to know all their personalities without the previews?!” “Aaa-chooguardiansofthegalaxy …!”

Then again, if you wanted to go see the movie, you probably would have found the preview online. In this day and age do people still wander into a theater not knowing what they want to see? “Oo, this looks interesting Margaret; let’s take a chance and spend a week’s income to see THIS movie!”

It could have started a trend: Watch this mega-preview first!

And they then could have added in all these scenes rumored to be on the cutting room floor that made the movie darker or funnier depending on who you believe.

***

            There are hundreds of reviews of “Suicide Squad”. Most of them were published on my Facebook wall by frenzied fans. I agree with parts of them and disagree with parts of them. Some random thoughts:

***

            Harley Quinn was fun and not as eye-rolling as the previews led me to believe she would be. A psychopath? Sure, but at least it was toned down from her comic book-y levels. And there was one moment that was wonderful. She slipped out of character for a few seconds. When the rest of the Squad caught up to her, she held up her head, pasted on the smile and was back to her psychotic self. That’s about as close as she came to three dimensions.

And she did steal every scene she was in. It helped that she was usually near the center of every the shot…

***

            Much as been made of Jared Leto’s Joker. He was on-screen for less than ten minutes total and got second billing. Unlike what some have writ, I do not think he stole every scene he was in. But is WAS a unique interpretation of the Joker. Crazy? I suppose, but no more so than villains we have seen on TV’s “Daredevil” or “Constantine”.

The actor is purportedly miffed that his best lines remain on the cutting room floor. I believe it: his Joker is a homicidal drug-dealing gangster running a nightclub. Will Smith’s wife also did that on “Gotham” with about the same body count. Leto’s Joker leans more towards Nicholson’s crazy than Ledger’s Lord of Chaos. In fact, in the few lines he had I thought “What if Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow played Al Pacino’s role in “Scarface”? Relax, Leto fans, I’m comparing him favorably to Jack Nicholson, Johnny Depp and Al Pacino fer crissake!

Leto may or may not be back in the DC Movie Universe as the Joker, depending on the articles you read. He will have to be replaced by a DC villain who is psychotic and runs Gotham’s Underworld. Maybe the Penguin? A shame, but frankly the Joker is overused anyway.

And you don’t keep an actor who doesn’t WANT to play the character anymore! It would be like hiring someone who actively dislikes Superman to direct another … movie … Oh, yeah. I guess we WILL see Leto’s Joker soon…

***

            Will Smith was kept on a short leash and did very well with Deadshot. Granted, that of all of the Squad, he had the most characterization to sink his teeth into; but he avoided the “too cool to fool” hipness (dare I say, being Fresh?) of, for example, “Independence Day”.  Of course, a list of the things wrong with “Independence Day” would fill up a flashdrive…

He was given star billing, although Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn) and Leto got most of the press. He did a good job.

***

            Amanda Waller – more evil than even the bad guys – and Captain Boomerang – sowing seeds of rebellion and approaching Waller’s boundaries without ever crossing them – were the characters most like the comic book. The second series, of course.

 

SPOILER

            Slipknot? He was never given a preview at the beginning of the movie and introduced about a half-hour into the film. When they DID introduce him to the team, all but the most non-savvy movie-goers knew what was going to happen to him.  He might as well have been wearing a red shirt from the original “Star Trek”. His fate was so telegraphed it made the first “Jurassic Park” seem taut and suspenseful. Little things like this are why movies get bad reviews. They should have given him a preview and put him in the lineup of the movie posters, something…

END OF SPOILER

 

“Suicide Squad” wasn’t as dark as I thought. Even when Amanda Waller showed her VERY dark side, I wasn’t shocked by it.

It is relative: “Superman, The Man of Steel” being dark is shocking; “Suicide Squad” being dark is expected.

***

            So I liked it, I didn’t love it; I may or may not see the inevitable sequel. I will see “The Magnificent Seven” again. The original, not the remake. Dun dun-dundun, dundundun-dundun-dun; dun dun-dundun…

 

 

Original Material Copyright Michael Curry 2016