Rich Buckler – RIP to a comic book great!

… and on Gardner Fox’s 106th birthday, I also honor a Golden & Silver Age great!

***

I was very sad to hear of the death of comic book artist Rich Buckler today.  Here is his Wikipedia entry (note his death had yet to make the page):

Rich Buckler (born February 6, 1949) is an American comic book artist and penciller, best known for his work on Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four in the mid-1970s and for creating the character Deathlok in Astonishing Tales #25. Buckler has drawn virtually every major character at Marvel and DC, often as a cover artist.

As a teenager in Detroit, Buckler attended the initial iterations of the Detroit Triple Fan Fair, eventually running the convention along with originator Robert Brosch in 1969–1970.

Buckler’s first comics work was as a teenager with the four-page historical story “Freedom Fighters: Washington Attacks Trenton” in the King Features comic book Flash Gordon #10 (cover-dated Nov. 1967). At DC Comics, he drew the “Rose and the Thorn” backup stories in Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane #117-121 (Dec. 1971 – April 1972).

Buckler drew the first three issues of writer Don McGregor’s Black Panther series in Jungle Action vol. 2, #6-8 (Sept. 1973 – Jan. 1974), a run that Comics Bulletin in 2010 ranked third on its list of the “Top 10 1970s Marvels”. He fulfilled a decade-long dream in 1974 when assigned to draw Marvel’s flagship series, Fantastic Four, on which he stayed for two years.  During this period, Buckler created the cyborg antihero Deathlok, which starred in an ongoing feature debuting in Astonishing Tales #25 (Aug. 1974). Also during this period, Buckler hired the young George Pérez as his studio assistant.

Buckler collaborated with writer Gerry Conway on a “Superman vs. Shazam!” story published in All-New Collectors’ Edition #C-58 (April 1978). He drew the newspaper comic strip The Incredible Hulk for approximately six months in 1979. A Justice League story by Conway and Buckler originally intended for All-New Collectors’ Edition saw print in Justice League of America #210-212 (Jan.-Mach 1983). Buckler and Roy Thomas then created the World War II superhero team the All-Star Squadron in a special insert in Justice League of America #193 (Aug. 1981) which led to the team’s own title the following month.

Buckler worked for Archie Comics in 1983 and 1984, when that publisher briefly revived its Red Circle Comics superhero line, and he recruited Cary Burkett to write the Mighty Crusaders title. In 1985, Buckler returned to Marvel and briefly drew The Spectacular Spider-Man with writer Peter David, where they produced the storyline “The Death of Jean DeWolff”. He also served as editor for a short-lived line of comics by Solson Publications, where in 1987 he created Reagan’s Raiders.

He is the author of two books: How to Become a Comic Book Artist and How to Draw Superheroes. In 2015, he became an Inkwell Awards Ambassador.

 

I remember his covers of the comic books I collected during the Bronze Age, but as I searched for his comic book covers on the internet I was stunned at how prolific he was; at least with the comics I collected. He was everywhere! He, Jim Aparo and Ernie Chua seemingly accounted for 75% of DC covers in the 1970s! I may only slightly be exaggerating! Here are some examples of the man’s work. I still have all these issues …

***

Today also marks the 106th birthday of Gardner Fox, prolific comic book author whose writing helped create the Golden Age and whose creations still exist in one form or another. He was the creator or “… co-creator of DC Comics heroes the Flash, Hawkman, Doctor Fate and the original Sandman, and was the writer who first teamed those and other heroes as the Justice Society of America. Fox introduced the concept of the Multiverse to DC Comics in the 1961 story “Flash of Two Worlds!” …” (from Wikipedia).

 

Two comic book great are being remembered today. Thank you both for your wonderful bodies of work. You and your talent are both missed very much!

 

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DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – a look back on Season Two

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow just completed Season Two. And it will have a Season Three – something that was in doubt this time last year.

Season One was savaged by the critics and all but the most trollish of DC trolls. I liked it, I did. But I wasn’t as giddy about its first season as I was about the first season of Arrow or Flash … read my review by clicking on the link above.

This second season was better, per the critics and the trolls. And indeed it was.

I liked Season Two as well, but I still didn’t love it.

Why?

I have a hard time putting my finger on the why. And I figured out why while writing this review – which was partly my goal.

It was a better show than the prior season– they pruned the cast; the remaining members grew and the new ones were allowed more depth (a smaller cast allows that). They had a variety of Big Bads instead of one. The stories were fair despite the Pez-dispenser-like lessons of history.

Maybe it is unfair to compare it to the joy of watching Flash and Supergirl, where the glee (pardon the pun) of the cast and writers warm the viewers like the sun in spring. However, the show is better than the brooding and plodding Season Five of Arrow, which unfortunately followed its brooding and plodding Season Four.

Put it this way: I watch Flash and Supergirl as soon as I can (I tivo all my shows and watch them later) – usually the next day; with LoT I sometimes wait until the weekend; Arrow and some others (Agents of Shield, as another example) are watched in bundles of two or three episodes at a time because of their glacial story progression.

So LoT came in a distant third this year. The other CW shows have about six more episodes this season, so it is possible for them to blow it and make LoT look like the Mary Tyler Moore Show, but that is doubtful.

Let’s look at the hows and whys this season was better – or worse – than the first:

The cast was trimmed this season. Hawkgirl is gone.  Too bad. Perhaps with this “new” setting of Season Two the character would have been able to do more than mourn the death of Carter Hall and be the constant captive of Vandal Savage. The actress Ciara Renée deserved better.

Arthur Darvill had other commitments during the season so Rip Hunter was written out of most of the show. I thought it would be the death knell but it actually helped. Sara Lance grew into the role of the captain of our crew. Rip’s eventual return just showed us how crowded the cast was – we and Rip realized he was … well … not needed anymore. I hope he pops up from time to time.

The loss of Wentworth Miller as Leonard Snart/Captain Cold was also a blow, or so I thought. Here was the best character of Season One (Mick Rory, now no longer Snart’s sidekick, steals every scene like the thief he is. The only good thing about Wentworth Miller leaving the show was Dominic Purcell’s ascendancy. He is wonderful – Rory was meant to be two-dimensional and ends up being the most well-rounded character of the show!).

Snart, Hunter and Hawkgirl were replaced by Steel and Vixen – two characters who started off in comics of the 1970s but did not really come into their own popularity until the 1980s. They helped provide some missing muscle and exposition (Steel was an historian and Vixen knew where to find this Season’s MacGuffin). They began a more believable romance than last year’s Atom-Hawkgirl coupling.

The Season starts out promising: the Legends’ job is to find time aberrations and set things straight: zombies in the Civil War, Albert Einstein kidnapped by Nazis. They confront the Justice Society (the handling of their roster caused quite a kerfuffle amongst the DC purists). Then the Big Bads and this season’s major MacGuffin are introduced:

The Legion of Doom consists of past bad guys from the Arrowverse – Eobard Thawn, trying to save his existence from being destroyed; Malcolm Merlyn – John Barrowman sleepwalking through this worn-out character; Damien Darhke, the Big Bad from Arrow Season 4, again played by Neal McDonough who smirked and smarmed as thoroughly as he did in Arrow. After 20 episodes there and 10 here, I think the audience has been sated with Darkhe, thank you. Wentworth Miller was touted as a member of the Legion, but he was only in the last three episodes or so.

legends-of-tomorrow-season-2-episode-8-the-chicago-way

The MacGuffin was the Spear of Destiny – a major prop in the DC comic book universe and a nice addition here – the spear the Roman soldier used to pierce the side of Jesus. In the comics, whosoever held the spear would rule the world. Hitler possessed it and prevented Superman and the other Justice Society members from going to Europe and kicking his ass (hence the reasoning behind why Superman, Dr. Fate, Green Lantern and others didn’t simply … go to Europe and kick his ass).

In LoT the Spear of Destiny can alter reality – Thawne wants it to create a universe in which his ancestor lived and thus he continued to exist. The Justice Society took the Spear and hid it throughout history. Thus creating the plot thread throughout the rest of the show, leading to a final big battle at the season’s end.

The season finale seemed almost tacked on. They go back to a previous adventure in World War One to change their eventual defeat that allows the Legion to take the spear – thus breaking the #1 temporal law – don’t go back and meet yourself (which some of the members had already done in Season One, but I assume, like Star Trek 5, we are to pretend that never happened).

Odd that Season Two only lasted 17 episodes instead of the usual 22 or 23, which may explain why the season finale seemed so “tacked on” – now that I bring it up, this plot thread could have been completed two or three shows before even that … heaven forfend they do some done-in-one episodes as filler. Subtract the obvious filler – the Jonah Hex redo and the cross-over with the other Arrowverse shows and we have only 15 episodes. Couldn’t the other 7 shows simply be well-done stand-alone episodes to finish out the season and prepare us for any changes in Season Three?

They COULD have done some fun single-episode time-travel shows. In my primer (the link is above) I mentioned they were entering into Doctor Who territory: going to different times and meeting the famous and infamous. They did that (George Washington, etc.), but it didn’t quite click.

The budget is tight on the show, I know. Which is why Firestorm rarely appears (and why wasn’t Victor Garber given more to do? After he revealed his daughter as a time aberration and turned over command to Sara Lance, he practically disappeared. Fortunately, he was excellent in the Flash’s musical episode!).

Brandon Routh was demoted from the eccentric he played in Flash down to the flightiness of last season to now being an idiotic man-child. Brandon Routh and Ray Palmer deserve better. He and Stein should be the geniuses of the series; like Cisco and Winn, creating the weekly MacGuffins to help defeat the bad guy.

On the other hand, Franz Drameh’s Jefferson Jackson was promoted from last season’s wise-ass kid to the engineer. He should be helping the geniuses Palmer and Stein with the mechanical side of the MacGuffin-making.

***

OK, so what was it about Season Two that I did not like? While I still haven’t quite put my finger on it, I do have some ideas to heal the show’s ills:

The Berlanti method is growing thin. After five seasons of Arrow, three in Flash, and one in LoT, the Season-long Big Bad story arc is an idea whose time is over. Do what is being done in Supergirl and make the Big Bad only a major recurring (not constant) villain – as they did with Lillian Luthor/Argus and Rhea (Mon-El’s mother). Weren’t you tired of Thawne snatching victory away from the Legends at the end of every episode?

Go back to fixing time aberrations. Not just on earth but through the universe. If you are going to emulate a TV show, you can do worse than Doctor Who. Introduce Kanjar Ro as an intergalactic tyrant. Introduce Krona as a time-meddler (he would make a good Big Bad AND be a nice way to FINALLY introduce the Green Lantern Corps into the Arrowverse)

Make “small” story arcs. The only good thing Agents of Shield has done in three years is having two separate story arcs this season – Ghost Rider for the fall and LMD for the spring.

And although the budget is not huge, PLEASE hire an historian. A real one. Nothing ruins a good story when you know the very premise is wrong. I realize this isn’t PBS, but stop using a paragraph or two from Wikipedia to get the gist of your background material.

For example: In one episode they had to find JRR Tolkien in the trenches of World War One. Tolkien knew a possible location to the tomb of Sir Gawain that could lead the Legends to a vial of the Jesus’ blood which could be used to destroy the Spear of Destiny … that lived in the house that Jack built. The Legends knew this because of a book Tolkien wrote about Sir Gawain. No such book exists – he wrote a translation of a lay of Sir Gawain, but not a treatise. And not during/before WWII…

While searching for him, they overheard a sergeant yelled “Fool of a Tolkien” to a sick soldier. Aha! This must be JRR! And sure enough …

The line was an homage to the line “Fool of a Took!” from Fellowship of the Ring. I bristled when I heard the line. It took away from Tolkien’s ability as a writer. It implied that he did not create the line – he just used what other people did. He did not. That is wrong.

“Lighten up,” you might say, “it was just a fun line.”

No it wasn’t. It was disrespectful. Same as when the Legends met George Lucas and the characters ended up in a pre-replica of the trash compactor scene. As with the Tolkien quotes, it diminished the genius and the originality of Lucas’ idea – a young lad and some friends are whisked away from their home by a quirky wizard to go fight a dark lord and his minions who are bent on ruling the … oh…

Never mind …

But it insults our intelligence as it insults the creativity of the historical guests (this is the same problem I have with Forest Gump or the “Marvin Berry” scene in Back to the Future).

Knock it off. It turns idols into thieves and it’s a short-cut by piss-pour writers for a cheap laugh.

***legends-of-tomorrow-season-2-aruba-slice-600x200

As I hoped, writing this little opinion piece has revealed what nags me about the show: if Legends of Tomorrow weren’t connected to the comic book characters I read and loved as a kid, I would not be interested in watching this show.

Compare that to, say, the superb first season of Arrow. I’d have loved that season even without the superhero lineage.

(Whereas Flash and Supergirl are too inextractibly linked to their comic books to say that. Were anyone to make those two shows renaming their leads they would face a copyright lawsuit faster than you can say “Shazam”. That’s a great line if you know the history of comic book litigation…)

But I repeat – I would likely not watch LoT if not for the DC roster. The stories and characters may not be great – but it’s the Atom! And the Justice Society! It may insult my intelligence – but there’s Jonah Hex!

***

So I still like the show. Perhaps the reason it gets under my skin so is that with some really simple (and inexpensive) tweaks it could be so much better. Instead of being fun in a frat-boy-“that-was-cool-wasn’t-it” way it could be fun AND thrilling. Season Two was an improvement over Season One. Season Three could be better still!

I cheer for the show – I really am rooting for it to do well; to be better! Stop emulating the storytelling-style of Arrow and Flash. You don’t need to. Do shorter story arcs! Do solo stories focusing on only one or two characters! When they meet real life legends – let them remain legends, not accidents.

Don’t emulate others. Be different.

Most legends are…

 

Original Material Copyright 2017 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 Flash! A review of the CW TV show (part two)

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

Tuesday: the Flash

Part Two (here is part one)

It does not take Sherlock Holmes to deduce this is my favorite of the DC/CW shows The Flash is light-hearted without being silly.

“Light-hearted?” you might say, “Worlds are imperiled; timelines are wiped and sometimes good people die!”

True, but by light-hearted I mean the show still keeps its sense of fun even at the darkest of times. You cheer on the good guys and boo the bad guys. You know things will turn out all right in the end, however tense it might be.

Watch Supergirl episode “World’s Finest” in which Flash appears. The scenes in which they appear together emits so much joy and sweetness it hits you from every angle. There is genuine chemistry between the actors. You don’t see this on TV very often. Good acting, good writing, good show!

Flash sticks to its comic book roots in the Silver Age and Bronze Age. There are lots of Easter eggs that make this old fan smile.

  • There are so many references to the Silver Age Green Lantern – Ferris Air and Coast City are mentioned frequently and we even see a flight jacket with a “Jordan” name patch – that I think an appearance by the ring slinger is inevitable in the years to come.
  • Even their casting harkens back to loyalty and tradition: Barry Allen’s father (John Wesley Shipp) played the scarlet speedster in the 1990 TV show. Great casting – when I first read that he was playing Barry’s father I was excited! When I heard that Jay Garrick would appear in season 2, I thought, “Too bad, Wesley Shipp would have made the perfect Jay Garrick!”
  • Even the villains give homage to the past: the Trickster is played by Mark Hamill (do I REALLY need to tell you about that OTHER role he played), who played the Trickster in the 1990 TV series. Watching him chew the scenery is a delight.

Jesse L. Martin, who plays Iris and Wally’s father (and Barry’s adoptive father) is always a highlight. His role as a policeman harkens back to his Law & Order days. But characterization was not L&O’s forte. What a treat to see him laugh heartily, mist up as he gives fatherly advice, etc. He is superb…

Grant Gustin is no slouch either. As Barry Allen and the Flash you can feel his joy in playing the character. “I love being a hero,” Flash often says. Through Grant’s acting, it shows.

I would be remiss not mentioning Carlos Valdes as Cisco. He plays the viewer’s role in the show: giving names to the heroes and villains, encouraging Flash to fight the good fight, creating the mcguffins that beat the bad guys. He is us.

Rounding out the crew of Flash’s allies are Danielle Panabaker as the beautiful uber-nerd Caitlin Snow. She started off as a cold fish but warmed up to the Flash (and us) pretty quickly. Her “date” with Barry in the karaoke scene is a must-watch. I hope her role in Season 3 is better than the love-sick hostage of Season 2, though. The character and the actress deserves better.

Candace Patton as Iris West is stunningly beautiful (just think if she were real: her dad’s a policeman, yeek!) and plays her up-and-down relationship with Barry well. Both Iris and Barry learn what we comic book fans have known for almost 50 years – they are destined to wed. But with all the time tinkering; will they?

The villains (super or otherwise) are also fun. One of the best part of the Silver/Bronze Age Flash comics was his Rogue’s Gallery. The fiends are second only to Batman’s slate of bad guys. The only one NOT to appear so far is Abra Kadabra; and with all the time-traveling taking place in the show this is surprising. I think even the Top showed up (I might be wrong, though). Mordant blue, even the TURTLE shows up!

The show has its flaws: most obvious is the character’s past. When Wally West shows up, we old comic fans have a fair idea where his character will eventually lead. Characters with familiar last names (Thawne) spoil any surprise to old readers of the comic. There is no Black-Canary-bait-and-switch ala Arrow, although with Edward Thawne, they try.

Binge watching reveals another flaw in the show: sometimes it tends to wallow in formula. Villain is introduced, Flash confronts villain and gets his ass handed to him, Flash’s back-up team propose a solution using Star Trek Next Generation-esque technobabble, they create a mcguffin to help Flash/use an everyday devise to help Flash, Flash confronts villain again and defeats him. Insert subplots at any point (Barry loves Iris, Iris loves someone else or visa versa/team member might be bad guy/bad guy might be good guy).

Maybe it is a problem inherent in the premise, but they use it too often. Supergirl and Arrow use that formula, too.

A final issue that gnaws at me (and not just Flash, but with all DC/CW and other programs as well), is the season-length storyline that concludes with the big season finale. A super-supervillain is hinted at from episode one and introduced about four or five shows in. Other plots and villains come and go, but the super-supervillain plot keeps seeping to the surface – usually given the main plot-point every few episodes. The last three or four shows of the season deal exclusively with defeating the BIG baddie.

This is tedious for the casual watcher and eyerolling for the loyal fan. It became something of a joke at one point in Arrow: “Some supervillain is threatening to destroy the entire city? Must be May!”

For Season One of Flash this was acceptable, as everything about the show is new. By the end of Season Two, a new viewer will be lost, or should I say Lost. If the “previously on…” segment takes more than twenty minutes, you’ve lost your audience. Flash is in danger of that.

I can’t even tell you the events of Season Three without giving spoilers for Season Two (although the ads are giving it all away – it HAS to, to be effective)! All I can say is Barry regrets what he did and is trying to change the people and things he has affected!

The show is also in danger of becoming one long storyline (ala Agents of Shield). Which is fine if you are fan of that, but the real danger comes as lack of story progression: no plot advancement with the good guys facing failed plans and disappointed goals for 20 episodes (ala Agents of Shield) leaving the viewers frustrated and looking elsewhere (ala Agents of Shield).

In other words, every show will become “Villain is introduced, Flash confronts villain and gets his ass handed to him, Flash’s back-up team propose a solution using Star Trek Next Generation-esque technobabble, they create a mcguffin to help Flash/use an everyday devise to help Flash, Flash is defeated anyway, repeat twenty times, Flash wins in episode 22, but it is revealed the enemy lives and will square off again next season. Repeat until cancelled.” (ala Agents of Shield).

See what I mean?

But let’s hope Flash doesn’t descend to that. There is too much love in the show, I think. And there is too much love OF the show to make me think otherwise!

 

Arrow is next…

 

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 Flash! A review (part one)

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

Tuesday: the Flash

Part One

 

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

CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SEASONS ONE & TWO

 

Season One: After witnessing his mother’s (Michelle Harrison) supernatural murder and his father’s (John Wesley Shipp) wrongful conviction for the crime, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) is taken in by Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) and his family. Allen becomes a brilliant but socially awkward crime scene investigator for the Central City Police Department. His obsession with his tragic past causes him to become an outcast among his peers; he investigates cold cases, paranormal occurrences, and cutting-edge scientific advancements that may shed light on his mother’s murder. No one believes his description of the crime—that a ball of lightning with the face of a man invaded their home that night—and Allen is fiercely driven to vindicate himself and to clear his father’s name. Fourteen years after his mother’s death, an advanced particle accelerator malfunctions during its public unveiling, bathing the city center with a previously unknown form of radiation during a severe thunderstorm. Allen is struck by lightning from the storm and doused with chemicals in his lab. Awakening after a nine-month coma, he discovers he has the ability to move at superhuman speeds. Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), the disgraced designer of the failed particle accelerator, describes Barry’s special nature as “metahuman”; Allen soon discovers that he is not the only one who was changed by the radiation. Allen vows to use his gifts to protect Central City from the escalating violence of metahuman criminals. He is aided by a few close friends and associates who guard his secrets.

Season Two: Six months after the events of the first season, after a singularity event, the Flash is recognized as Central City’s hero. However, the event brings an evil from a parallel universe to Central City in the form of the speedster Zoom (Teddy Sears; voiced by Tony Todd; Ryan Handley in costume) who seeks to eliminate everyone connected to the Speed Force throughout the multiverse. Harrison Wells’ parallel universe counterpart, and his daughter Jesse (Violett Beane), work to help Barry and his friends stop Zoom. Joe and his daughter, Iris (Candice Patton), struggle with their shared painful past related to their family, especially after the arrival of Iris’s brother Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale), whom Francine West (Vanessa A. Williams) gave birth to shortly after abandoning her family. After Zoom kills Barry’s father, the season concludes with Barry travelling back in time to save his mother’s life from the Reverse-Flash.

 

***

 

If I were ever asked to create a television show based on the Flash, I would refuse. This show has already done it. I. Love. This. Show.

Every character. Every Villain, Every plotline. Its tone. Its mood.

Everything.

 

When I decided to finally watch the DC-CW programs, this was my first pick. That caused some problems: Arrow had already been on for two seasons and its cast’s appearances in Flash spoiled some Arrow plotlines (“So-and-so just took over Queen Industries.” “I’m sorry to hear about the death of – fill in the blank”), but it didn’t ruin Arrow for me. Knowing what was going to happen to this character or that plot line didn’t bother me.

 

The Flash was the first superhero I discovered. Every six year old knows who Batman and Superman are, but the Flash was only on a few Filmation cartoons from the 1960s rerun in the mornings. When I was old enough to discover comic books, the characters Flash and Green Lantern quickly became my favorites (they were at one time both featured in the Flash comic book.

The comic book was simple without being simplistic. His abilities were easy to explain and easy to illustrate to this grade schooler. So were his rouges gallery: Captain Cold shoots ice from his cold gun; Heat Wave shoots fire from his gun. Got it.

Try explaining the Penguin or Brainiac to the same group of kids …

The comic and its characters were always fun and light – not childish, just light-hearted. The villains robbed banks and jewelry stores. Stories were (usually) done in one issue – rarely causing the reader to try to find the conclusion over the next month. (They did a particular continued story back in 1976 where Flash’s wife disappeared. It was a three-parter and it took me until 2001 before I found it on Ebay. After 25 years I finally found out how the story ended; as well as the continued Green Lantern back-up feature, too).

 

The show captures that joy and light-heartedness, even when facing serious subjects.

 

The producers changed some of the background of the characters.  But the changes are not overwhelming nor are they insulting to we old-timers! It sticks pretty close to the Flash’s Silver Age origin.

With some exceptions: Barry’s parents were alive and well during “my” time and showed up frequently in the comic. Barry’s father being accused of killing his mother was a modern take on the character in the comics of the 2000s.

The TV show went with Barry’s father supposedly murdering his wife. Barry being “adopted” by the Wests was an invention of the TV show. So was the explosion of the particle accelerator that led to his powers (the lightning strike and the resulting chemical explosion WERE part of the original story of the Silver Age Flash).

The coma, being healed and then trained and helped in the use of his powers by Caitlin Snow, Cisco Ramon and Dr. Harrison Wells were all invented by the TV producers for the show.

But that is fine! If they want to make it canon I would not object! Considering now they are changing superhero origins on nearly a monthly basis; this would be one of the better changes!

 

A review and critique of the characters, the actors who portray them and the plots will come 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 Bicentennial banner comic … DC Super-Stars #5, a Flash in the pan?

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#33

DC Super-Stars #5

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Published monthly, fifty cents, August

Cover artist: Dick Giordano

Editor: E. Nelson Bridwell

            DC Super-Stars was an anthology series published from March 1976 until February 1978 lasting 18 issues.

            It began as a reprint series (such as this Bicentennial issue) but as of issue #12 began printing original stories.  Teen Titans, Aquaman, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Zatanna, Adam Strange (these were titled DC Super-Stars of Space and also featured the Atomic Knights, Captain Comet, Space Ranger, etc.) were some of the headliners. New stories included Strange Sports Stories (heroes and villains play a baseball game. Uncle Sam umpired), Superboy (that issue was a best seller and revived an interst in a solo Superboy series), a Sgt Rock/Unknown Solder team-up, a Phantom Stranger/Deadman Halloween team-up, the debut of the Star Hunters (an excellent forgotten comic book series) and origin issues featuring various heroes and villains (including the debut of the Huntress in #17).

            This Bicentennial issue features the Flash.

***

“The Day Flash Aged 100 Years”, Gardner Fox ( w ), Carmine Infantino (a), Joe Giella (i), Julius Schwartz (original editor).

            Scientists at Centralia University have created an aging formula. The Top steals the vial containing the liquid, intent on using it on Flash, It will age the Scarlet Speedster and force him to retire as old athletes do.

            The Top raids the Flash museum and is stopped by the Sultan of Speed. Top hurls a grenade at his adversary. When it goes off, Flash ages 100 years! He has a long beard and his costume droops on him. Top easily beats Flash with a punch.

            But it is all a ruse. Flash vibrated through the toxins and disguised himself at superspeed to trick the Top! But no matter how many times he encounters (and is beaten by) the Top, Flash still cannot find the vial of the remaining aging formula.

            The Top’s vibrational weaponry combined with the aging formula now causes Flash to evolve as well as age (how can this be when it was a ruse? Quiet…). His head grows as his mind evolves! He attacks Top with his mental prowess. Top escapes – and realizes that with the formula and his tops he can evolve himself into Super-Top! He takes the formula from a hollow leg of a table. Flash snatches it away before Top can use it. Flash’s evolving into a higher being was a ruse (but … I said quiet!)! Magnets and superspeed helped create the illusion of the Future Flash! Flash thanks museum guide Dexter Miles for his acting and make-up expertise in capturing the Top!

            This story is reprinted from Flash 157 (December 1965)

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and also reprinted in Showcase Presents: The Flash #3 (tpb) (2009)

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***

“The Midnight Peril”, John Broome ( w ), Carmine Infantino (a), Joe Giella (i), Julius Schwartz (original editor).

            To join a high school fraternity, Wally West and Peter Willard must stay in a haunted house until midnight.

            Discussing Kid Flash to pass the time (Peter: “Do you really think he can do all that super speed stuff?”) they see two figures in ghostly garb who demand they leave! The boys bolt from the house. Thile Peter keeps running, Wally dons his Kid Flash garb to investigate. Sure enough, the ghosts are merely two crooks scaring the kids away from their hideout! Kid Flash puts on the ghostly disguise (a sheet with holes in it) and with his superspeed haunts the crooks with dozens of “real” ghosts! The crooks flee with the “ghosts” chasing them. Kid Flash herds the crooks into police headquarters where they happily surrender.

            And they’d have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for those meddling kids…

            Meanwhile, a panicked Peter catches his foot between rocks at the bottom of a tall rocky hill. Lightning from a summer storm strikes the hill and causes an avalanche. Kid Flash deflects the stones and rescues Peter. Peter goes back to the “haunted” house where Wally tells him Kid Flash appeared and sent the “ghosts” to police HQ.

            The boys are welcomed into the fraternity, having passed their test (although technically they DID leave the house before the deadline …).

            This story is reprinted from Flash 118 (February 1961)

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and also reprinted in The Flash Archives #3 (tpb) (2002) 

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and Showcase Presents: The Flash #1 (tpb) (2007)

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***

“The Speed of Light”, writer unknown, Mort Drucker (a), Whitney Ellsworth & Julius Schwartz (original editors)

            A one-page feature describes the history of measuring the speed of light. Even I understood it!

            This is reprinted from Strange Adventures #15 (December 1951)

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and also reprinted in Strange Adventures #82 (July 1957).

 Strange_Adventures_82

***

“Deal Me from the Bottom”, John Broome ( w ), Rico Rival (new art), Sheldon Meyer (original editor), Ted Udall & Julius Schwartz (assistant editors)

            Nearly a half-century (actually 44 years) before the X-Men’s Gambit, Ace Wolfe could also throw playing cards with deadly accuracy. After his crimes in the west coast made things too hot for him, he returned to Keystone City and met up with his childhood friend, professional gambler Deuces Wild. Deuces was an “honest” gambler and didn’t want any part of Ace’s crimes, but Ace left him no choice. Deuces sent a secret message to Joan Williams about Ace’s upcoming crime.  Joan, you see, is rumored to have an “in” with the Flash (she is unknowingly the girlfriend of Jay “Flash” Garrick).

flash

            Flash stops Ace from his robbery, but Ace and gang manage to get away. Ace suspects Deuce of finkery and keeps him captive for their next crime.

            Fortunately Jay discovers Ace’s next move while buying a costume for a masked ball. Seems the saleslady said there was a big demand for mailman uniforms for the big postal workers ball. Why would postal workers need mailman uniforms? Sure enough, Flash stops Ace from robbing the party-goers and sends Ace to prison after rescuing Deuces.

            This story is reprinted – kind of – from All-Flash #22 (May 1946).

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DC apparently decided that our eyes would not be able to withstand the “poor” original art from the golden age, so the story was redrawn in the “modern” style. This was done with a golden age Flash story in Four Star Spectacular #1 from three months before and the letters taking them to task for doing so (in Four Star Spectacular #3) would make you think they wouldn’t do it again. Nope…

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            In comics from years previous it was explained that reprinting golden age stories were hard to do because of the poor reproduction technology at the time. That makes more sense and we the people would likely accept that as a more logical explanation (although still BS).

            Let’s not put the onus on Rico Rival – who did a great art job on a thankless task. It wasn’t his fault, folks, give him some credit here… But still, it kind of smacks of “Star Wars Special Edition” – the original was probably just fine.

    Here are the splash pages of the original and the redo: 

Flash deal 3

 

            Keep in mind the publisher of National comics once drew the Golden Age Flash strip.

“Mr. Infantino, let’s redraw this Flash story, the art is abysmal compared to our modern artists!”

“I drew that originally.”

“… … … I’m fired, aren’t I?”

“Yep.”

***

            A text piece “A Zip of Super-Speedsters” (writer unknown) discusses all the speedsters, good guys and bad, in the DC Universe – both Flashes, Kid-Flash, Johnnie Quick, Joanie Quick, the Reverse-Flash.  But not Rival (one of the last villains of the Golden Age Flash’s run). This leads me to believe Bridwell did not write it – surely his encyclopedic knowledge of all things comic books would know about the Jay Garrick villain…

***

            John Broome, Gardner Fox, Whitney Ellsworth, Carmine Infantino, Julius Schwartz, Joe Giella, Mort Drucker, Sheldon Meyers, Ted Udall … it’s great seeing these names in a comic book, isn’t it? Rico Rival, too!

***

Next: “at last … the Buckle!”

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.