Friday, March 30, 2012

Tribute #4

Is it some sort of serious breach of comics blogger ethics to review a book that I'm involved in?  Is there even such a thing as "comics blogger ethics"?  If so, then you'd better convene that review board, because here I go with a look at Tribute #4.

Published by Main Enterprises, veteran small press publisher Jim Main, Tribute is a pin-up magazine giving independent and small press artists the chance to take a crack at their favorite mainstream characters.  Each issue has a different theme and the latest one spotlights classic cartoon characters, featuring over forty drawings of characters ranging from the obscure (Colonel Bleep???) to the iconic (Bugs Bunny, Yogi Bear, etc.).  As you would expect in a publication of this sort, with contributions from over twenty different artists, the range of talent on display varies a great deal, from fairly amateurish to scarily professional.  
An example of the latter are the contributions of Terry Pavlett (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tom and Jerry and the cover, featuring a plethora of classic toons).  Based on his art herein, I find myself wondering why he isn't drawing DC's Looney Tunes comic.
Another favorite of mine are the pages by Gary Fields, who brings a slightly underground feel to his depictions of Hanna-Barbera luminaries Yogi Bear, Huck Hound and Peter Potamus. (Ok, so the last one isn't exactly a "luminary", but its still a great drawing.)
Then there's my piece, shown at the top of this post, featuring characters from Schoolhouse Rock.  I was quite proud of it when I turned it in, but now, perhaps because of the high quality printing of this book or maybe just seeing it presented alongside the work of the two gentlemen cited above among others, I can suddenly see every flaw in it.  Still, I suppose its not all that bad.
At first, $4.99 might seem a bit pricey for a forty page pin up book, however it is an incredibly professional looking package, printed on slick high quality paper with full color covers.  When you think about it, for a small print run comic with this level of production values, its actually well worth the price.
You can order a copy for yourself at Jim's web-site.  While there, you can also check the rest of Jim's wide range of publications. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

More About Moore (and Watchmen and Timothy Callahan and and Raccoons and Other Stuff)

When I posted a link to my post about "Before Watchmen" on my Facebook page, one of my friends left this comment:
"... Allegedly, Moore and Gibbons themselves were planning a Minutemen prequel before Moore left DC in the 80's. Also, there was a Watchmen RPG in the 80's that (also allegedly) Moore wrote portions of."
Yes, there was, back in the ancient days of pre-history that historians call the 1980's, a time when Alan Moore did not consider DC Comics to be the Great Satan and source of all evil in the multiverse, and, according to all accounts I've read, was actually open to the idea of further stories set in the universe of Watchmen.  
Some DC apologists out here in cyber-land have attempted to use that fact to justify the existence of "Before Watchmen."  That argument just doesn't hold water.  What Alan Moore may or may not have wanted two and a half decades ago really has no bearing at all on what DC Comics does in 2012.  If DC had any concern about honoring Mr. Moore's wishes, and its quite clear that they do not, it is current wishes that should be taken into account, and he has made it quite clear that he does not want this project to happen.
Moore most recently expressed those wishes in an interview  with Kurt Amacker, a link to which was posted in a comment on the Open Salon version of Gutter Talk by commenter "Chiller Pop".  Though quite lengthy, the interview is worth reading all the way through.  In it, Moore not only gives his thoughts on "Before Watchmen", but traces the origins of his emnity for DC and details the dissolution of his friendship with Watchmen collaborator Dave Gibbons, among other topics.  Moore may come across, as Jason Aaron condemned him in a column last year, as "bitter", but it seems he has at least some right to be.  
One of the other tepid defenses of "Before Watchmen" that I've seen offered up is that DC owns these characters and therefore can do whatever the bloody hell they want with them.  In the interview, Moore casts some doubt on that assertion, though insists he has no intent or desire to take any legal action.  Interestingly, Moore sidesteps the question of whether he ever once may have wanted to do a Minutemen series.   Does he, I wonder, believe that somehow undercuts his arguments against the new prequels?  If so,  I can't see why, because I, as I stated above, certainly do not think that is so.  
CP also observed in his comment that, "I think these prequels show a severe, regressive lack of imagination on DC's part."
I have to agree with you there, Pop.  For that matter, so does much of what DC has published over the past decade or more.  Geoff Johns run on Green Lantern has been pretty much just an expansion of concepts from Moore's Tales of the Green Lantern Corps stories, especially "Tygers", which Geoff riffed on for the whole "Sinestro Corps War" storyline.  In another  interview, Moore remarked, "... these days, I increasingly get a sense of the comics industry going through my trashcan like raccoons in the dead of the night."
Going back to the Facebook comment, Alan Moore is, in fact, credited as co-writer on one of the three Watchmen role playing modules released by Mayfair games shortly after the release of the mini-series.   Details on that can be found in this early "When Words Collide" on-line column by Timothy Callahan.  To me that column is more noteworthy for Callahan's take on Captain Metropolis' role in the story.  He goes so far as to contend that "...Captain Metropolis is the glue that holds Watchmen together," and makes quite a convincing case in favor of that bold assertion.
I think that with this post I have reached the limits of all I have to say about Watchmen and any past or future sequels or prequel, at least for the time being, so its time to move on to other subjects. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Watchmen and the Human Condition

Its been--what--three years now since the Watchmen film came out, right? 
Anyway, it was about that time, maybe a month or two before the movie's release date, that Max Ink and I were discussing the comic.  In particular, we were debating the view of human nature put forth by Alan Moore in the book.
The discussion found me attempting to argue that Watchmen presented a more hopeful and optimistic view of humanity and its future than the bleak outlook that Max seemed to see in the comic.  Reflecting on this, it almost seems as if the sides should have been reversed.  Certainly no one who knows Max, either personally or even just through his work, especially on Blink, would accuse him of being a cynic.
Anyway, despite my best efforts, which pretty much merely amounted to citing Dr. Manhattan's "thermodynamic miracle" speech at the end of chapter 9, which is one of the most moving  and inspiring passages I've ever read, I failed to make my case in a manner that convinced even me.  I'm not that good at arguing off the top of my head.  Most of these posts, the better ones at least, ferment in my head for a few days before I sit down at the keyboard.  This particular one has been knocking around my brain for a week now.
The reason that this three year old conversation came back to me is that someone has come along and made the case that I was trying to make back then.  In the conclusion of his four part analysis of Watchmen at, Timothy Callahan responds to a remark made by Darwyn Cooke, writer and artist of the upcoming Minutemen mini-series, in an article about the "Before Watchmen" series of prequels to Watchmen
Addressing what he sees as the graphic novel's "pervasive darkness", Cooke said, "I’d consider it a masterpiece if it had been able to have found what I would refer to as a hopeful note." 
This prompted Callahan to write, "As flawed as [the] characters, and their world, may be, I can’t imagine an interpretation of Watchmen that doesn’t recognize its inherent hopefulness. It presents a world prepared for global nuclear war, and the war is the end, Dan Dreiberg and Laurie Juspeczyk are together, living happily ever after....Viedt’s preposterous plan has worked. Millions have died so billions might live.  Harsh as it may be, there’s a hopefulness there....To read it any other way, particularly as some kind of justification for profiting from working on sequels, that’s the cynical act."
I've just excerpted enough of what Callahan to give the gist of his meaning, but you really should follow the link above and read the whole thing.  His review of Watchmen, by the way, is part of his year long "Great Alan Moore Reread", in which he will be taking a look at all of Moore's major works over the course of 2012. He just finished up Watchmen last Monday, and so far has covered V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing and Moore's Superman stories, among other early works. In today's column, he tackles Moore's Vigilante two parter, his two short Omega Men back-up stories and the Green Arrow story "Night Olympics". (If you're interested, you can check out my take on "Night Olympics" here.) It's definitely a series worth following.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Irrational Geographic

I learned something about myself that I hadn't realized previously while rereading an old comic book.  Until just recently, I had not known that I was a New Englander. 
This revelation comes courtesy of Challengers of the Unknown #83, published by DC in 1977 and written by Gerry Conway.  The story, "Seven Doorways to Destiny!", is a sequel to Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson's "The Lurker in Tunnel 13" from Swamp Thing #8.  This time its the Challengers' turn to face the Lovecraftian horror known as M'Ngala, which holds the small mining town of Perdition in its thrall, with some assistance from Swampy himself. 
In the Swamp Thing story, Wein doesn't  get too specific about Perdition's exact locale, though there is a reference to Swamp Thing shambling through "...a snow swept Appalachian wood."  On the splash page of Challengers #83, on the other hand, one of Conway's captions refers to "...the small New England town of Perdition."  However, subsequent references  to Perdition location throughout the remainder of the issue place it in Pennsylvania, which is more consistent with Wein's description, but seems to indicate that, on Gerry Conway's map at least, Pennsylvania is in New England.
I was born in Pennsylvania and spent the first two and a half decades of my life living in various small towns around the northwest corner of the state, yet in all that time I never knew that the state was part of the New England region.
That would be because it isn't.  I have also occasionally seen Pennsylvania referred to  as being a Midwestern state, which is also wrong.  If I remember my grade school geography correctly, the Keystone State is in what is called the Mid-Atlantic States region, which, I believe, though its been several decades since I've cracked open a geography textbook, runs from New York to the Mason-Dixon Line. 
I've read quite a few letters columns from the Bronze Age wherein the editors encourage their young readers to justify their choice of reading material to their comics disdaining peers and/or parental units by pointing to the things that they can learn from reading comics.  It doesn't exactly bolster that argument if the things that impressionable young kids are learning from comics are just flat out wrong. 
Of course, maybe its not wrong.  Maybe, on Earth-1 prior to the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Pennsylvania was up in New England.  I'm sure that's what the editor of Challengers probably would have said if someone had called him on the point.
On a totally different note, isn't "perdition" another word for "hell"?  You've got to wonder why anybody would give that name to a town.  For that matter, why would anybody name a town "Desolation"? (from Green Lantern #77)  What were the founders of those towns thinking?   Ok, Perdition and Desolation are fictional towns and their names were chosen, I assume, by Len Wein and Dennis O'Neil to reflect the tone and themes of the story at hand.  However, isn't their a real town, I think its in Michigan, called "Hell"?  So, again, what were the founders of that town thinking and why would anyone want to live there?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Miller Dialogue (with Sheldon Gleisser)

Today I'm going to take a look at another controversy that caused a bit of a kerfluffle on the Wild, Wild Web during the past couple of months while I was taking a break from blogging.  This time its not just a case of coming late to the party, but of getting there after everybody's left, the lights have been turned off, the doors locked and a police cordon thrown up around the building.  Sadly, Occupy Wall Street and the issues the movement championed seem well on their way to being forgotten, let alone comics legend Frank Miller's over the top condemnation of them.   Still, for a while Miller's rant was topic number one in all corners of cyber-land, including the message boards of Columbus, Ohio cartoonists group Sunday Comix.
It began with Michael Neno posting a link to a post at Bleeding Cool featuring an image of a page of David Mazzuchelli's art from "Batman: Year One" with the text of Miller's screed substituted for the original dialogue.  It soon turned into a discussion between myself and fellow Sunday Comix member, writer and independent filmmaker Sheldon Gleisser about the influence of Miller's political views on his most famous work.
After reading Miller's polemic, Sheldon reacted thusly:
"Wow.  After seeing The Spirit I thought Frank Miller was someone who could really write comics but should be kept away from movie studios at all costs, I mean circulate his picture on big posters so everyone inside the gates of Paramount, 20th Century Fox, etc. knows who he is and it becomes a crime to let him in or to give him or anyone near him a movie camera.  After reading this 'Occupy' rant, I now just think he's your typical right wing lunatic.  I suppose the "occupy" movement might be accused of a certain amount of excess, not any more than the Tea Baggers, and anyway, rape?  Where's he getting that?  And this attitude of 'don't protest because Al Quaida will see it and this will encourage them?'  This is 2011, not 1952!  The Russians didn't just get the bomb!  Eisenhower ain't in the White House!  Where has Miller been?  He just gave us the typical argument of the right wing demagogue, they've been spouting that line of crap for years.  Substitute "Communism" for "Islamicism" in his rant, and it could have been written by Joe McCarthy.  His argument is, 'Even if you see something you don't like, keep quiet and keep your head down because FILL IN THE BLANK (be it Communism, Islamicism, or whatever boogeyman  they come up with) will use your protest as an excuse to bring down the country.  Well, if Miller is so concerned about Al Quaida, where was he when Ann Coulter accused the 9/11 widows of "reveling in publicity" and "enjoying their husband's deaths" because they wanted an independent commission to investigate 9/11?  We didn't get a rant from him then.  I suppose Batman is a kind of right-wing fantasy (Rich guy saves us from street criminals) and maybe that's why he wrote such great Batman comics, but he should really invest in a crowbar so he can one day get his head out of his ass.  He comes across like some rich, sheltered, adolescent Tea bagger who just discovered there are people who think differently than he does.  The Occupy protesters, for whatever their faults, are out there because of the 2008 economic crash, which was nothing more than the result of massive white collar fraud.  It was a crime perpetrated because we had so relaxed our banking laws to let "the Market" decide everything that the Free Market freed us of our jobs and investments, and that's why these street protests happened.  The people who gave us Subprime lending and the Commodities Futures Modernization Act and Credit Default Swaps are still out there, and did more (and are doing more) damage to us than 100 Joe Chills.  If Bruce Wayne were real, I hope he'd be with the occupiers (but in disguise, and without Alfred standing by in a limo with hot chocolate) but who can say?  Maybe it depends on who's writing the script.  I know Superman and Spider-man would be behind them.   People like Miller are probably rich enough that the economic crash didn't affect him over much, but he should have some pity on the rest of us.  Maybe  Will Eisner, God rest his soul, will rise up, EC comics living dead style, and strangle Miller for what he did to The Spirit.  A guy can dream."
 After Michael replied that  "Frank Miller's been a right-wing ideologue since before he began working for Marvel in the '70s. He's just gotten more strident in his old age.", Sheldon responded:
"I didn't know that.  God, I hate finding out about people I admire.  I'd rather just experience their work and never know anything about them.  It's one thing to be a nut.  It's another thing to be a NUT, and Miller is a NUT."
 At this point, I jumped in with this gem, "Sheldon, did you really not know Miller was a right wing nut job? Have you actually read The Dark Knight Returns?"
I was just being a wise-ass, but then Sheldon came back with this thoughtful response:
"Yes, I've read it, but didn't feel it was any more fascistic than any other Batman story I'd ever read.  I love Batman as  much as the next guy, but the entire Batman mythos says society is corrupt and can't be cleaned up except by this exceptional person who has the money and wherewithall to become this outrageously efficient vigilante.  Any author writing about Batman is writing about the appeal of simple solutions to complex problems, an inherently right-wing concept, and so, no, I didn't particularly see Miller's political bent based on reading that book.

It would be easy to watch any of the Death Wish movies and think that Brian Garfield is a fascistic right wing nut job, but if you read the original novel and knew anything about him, you'd see he's anything but that.  So particularly in this type of genre fiction, I don't think  it's possible to look at the work and get a clue as to what the author actually thinks about something. Unless they flat out tell you what they actually think about something, which our boy Frank just did.  Obviously I'm late to the party on Mr. Miller, but really Ray, can you read The Once and Future King and come to the conclusion that T.H. White likes Kings who rule by divine right and longs to be rid of democracy?  I have no idea if he thought that, and frankly, I'm not sure I would want to know.  He might have thought those things, or he might have just been an overgrown twelve year old who loved stories about knights and quests."
Now I felt compelled to defend my snarky comment.  Of course, even though I'd made the remark in jest, I  truly do believe that Dark Knight Returns reflects Miller's ideology.  I was, as Al Franken would say, "kidding on the square."  Therefore, I posted the following reply to Sheldon's argument:
"Though not as stridently put forth as in "Anarchy" (the blog post that started this discussion) Miller's right wing leanings are on display in The Dark Knight Returns.  Notice how he  takes the opportunity to skewer  a variety of liberal archetypes from the soft on crime Mayor of Gotham and Dr. Wolper, the quintessential bleeding heart liberal psychiatrist to  Carrie Kelly's out of touch hippie/liberal parents.
Clearly, Miller's Batman is more right wing than, say, Dennis O'Neil's. Speaking of O'Neil, can you tell me that you can read his Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories with Neal Adams and not come away with the conclusion that the author is a big fat flaming full blown liberal? After all, the liberal loudmouth Green Arrow gets all the best lines and Green Lantern, as stand-in for the "establishment", is reduced to a naive simpleton.
By the  way, it seems to me that not just Batman, but the entire super-hero genre is about "the appeal of simple solutions to complex problems", which is, as you say, Sheldon, inherently right wing. Perhaps  this is  why attempts to  convey liberal ideology through the genre, such as GL/GA, never quite succeed.
As to your Death  Wish example, it would certainly be a mistake to attempt to infer anything about a novelist's views from a movie that he may have had little or no input into.  Any ideology in the movie is much more likely that  of the filmmaker. To use the most extreme example I can think of, you definitely can't infer anything about Gary
K. Wolf (I hope I've got the name right, I haven't taken the time to look it up) from the movie ostensibly based on his novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, which threw out almost everything from the so-called source material, including the title, except for the names of the three main characters. The book is an allegory of racism in Hollywood, while the movie is an exercise in special effects wizardry.
When I read The Once and Future King, by the  way, I didn't get the impression that White was advocating the  divine right of kings. Even if I did, it wouldn't have detracted from the beauty of the novel.
The same goes for Miller.  Even though I personally disagree with the author's politics, The Dark Knight Returns remains one of the best Batman stories ever published."
Finally, Sheldon countered with:
" I see your point to a point.  It's been a while since I read Dark Knight Returns,  and particularly in light of his recent rant, it would be a different experience to read it now.  I personally didn't see the mayor as being a liberal (however one defines that) stereotype, but as being a device; he had to be an idiot in order for everybody to need Batman to come in and save the day.  As to Dr. Wolper, Miller seems to have a problem with psychiatry in general (but I'd hardly call Dr. Fax in Robocop 2 a liberal stereotype, she's the bloodthirsty, power-mad opposite) And while we're on the subject, in Robocop 2 and 3, Miller has story and co-screenplay credit.  Now, whatever criticisms  one may have of those films (I kinda like 2 and hated 3) their point of view is generally left of center.  The Military Industrial complex takes a bad beating in both movies, with rich corporate types the focus of EVIL.  Someone who did not know Miller's work and was introduced  to  him as a writer through those movies would probably think that he was a pretty left-leaning guy.  Granted, Miller does not have sole writing credit on either film, but I  figured anyone who had anything to do with the writing of Robo 2 and 3 was someone they had found leading the May Day parade.  I never read an interview with Miller where he said "they took my (Robo2) script and made it too liberal" (although he might have said that, I don't know) but since he came back for 3, I can only assume he found the experience of writing Robo 2 to his liking.

Yes, Dark Knight is great.  There is no denying Miller's talent.  But just as Michael Crichton being a Climate change denier makes me ask, "how can the guy who wrote Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain deny climate change, when climate change is a Michael Crichton style law of unintended consequences scenario? The Occupy movement is people banding together to fight bad things against just about impossible odds.  That seems a Frank Miller scenario, which he basically co-writes in Robo 3."
And that's where it ended, as I'd always intended to post my final reply to Sheldon here on this blog.
When I first read Dark Knight Returns, I knew nothing of Miller or his ideology, except that he was the guy who wrote the best damn Daredevil story I'd ever read.  At the time, I don't believe I saw any particular ideological bent to the story, though comparisons to Dirty Harry, another right wing wet dream, did spring to mind.  It was only later, after learning more about Miller's political views, that I began to see how much they informed DKR.
As to the question of whether an author's political leanings can be determined from a reading of their fiction, that really depends in part on the  particular author.  There are writers who can present all sides of an issue with equal conviction, making it impossible to determine where they personally stand on the issue, while there are others who wear their hearts, and their politics, on their sleeves.    
It also depends on the specific work in question.  In Miller's case, as many times as I've read "Born Again," I can see no trace of any ideology being expressed.  With DKR, while it certainly does reflect its writer's conservatism, that really doesn't seem to be the main purpose of the story.  It seems to me that what Miller was really trying to do there was to tell a kick-ass Batman story, and he succeeded admirably. With Holy Terror, his most recent work, Miller himself unashamedly admits that it is "naked propaganda".
Finally, the only Robocop film I've seen is, unfortunately, Robocop 3, and it was pretty bad.  However, I suspect that what Miller found to his liking about writing Robocop 2 is the pile of cash he most likely got paid for it. 
Your turn, Sheldon. 
And if anybody else has any thoughts on the subject, I'd love to hear those, too.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Thoughts on "Before Watchmen" and the "Relevance" of Moore and Gibbons

So, since I appear to be back in blogosphere for the time being, let us continue the grand Gutter Talk tradition of coming late to the party and take a look at some of the events that transpired during my self imposed hiatus.
The biggest and most controversial news of the past couple of months has undoubtedly been DC's announcement of the Before Watchmen project, a series of prequels to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' groundbreaking 1987 graphic novel Watchmen.  
Unlike some, I have no real moral or aesthetic objection to the existence of these prequels.  I most likely won't buy or read any of them, however.  If I did, it would probably be only the Minutemen mini-series written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke, because---I did mention that it was written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke, right?  Well, then, there ya go.   
Nor do I fear that the very existence of these books will somehow taint my enjoyment of the original.  I can still watch and enjoy my favorite film, Casablanca, despite having read the prequel/sequel novel As Time Goes By, even though that book was, to be honest, not really very good at all.
What does stick in my craw in some of the hype surrounding the project is the suggestion by DC execs and others connected with the project, such as J. Michael Straczynski, who has been the most vocal of the bunch on this point, that these books are necessary because the Watchmen characters need to be reinvented or reinvigorated in order to keep them "relevant" for an imagined new generation of readers, or some such corporate weasel public relations doublespeak BS.  To my ears, such an assertion seems to carry with it the implication that Moore and Gibbons' work has somehow become irrelevant. 
This couldn't be farther from the truth, of course.  Let us consider a few facts.  For instance, the fact that Watchmen has never gone out of print; that it remains to this day one of DC's top selling graphic novels; that people continue to read, reread and discuss and analyze it; that the movie, no matter what you may think of it, even got made after more than two decades; and that the announcement of Before Watchmen has spawned such emotion and impassioned argument; all of which speak quite eloquently to the issue of  the continued relevance of Watchmen, as does, for that matter, the very fact that DC even considered publishing Before Watchmen.  After all, you don't see them tripping over themselves to do a sequel to The DC Challenge, do you?
No, Watchmen is not a book that needs to be reinvented or made relevant.  It is, however, one of the few true masterpieces of comics literature and, as such, a work that DEMANDS to be read.  If you haven't already, I highly suggest that you do so. 
More on Watchmen coming soon, but first I let you read my e-mail in "The Miller Dialogue".

Monday, March 19, 2012

Trivia Challenge Answer: Mudd n' Gumm

Hey, check it out--two posts in a row!  I'm on a roll.  
Enjoy it while you can. God only knows how long its gonna last.
This is going to be just a quick post to clue you in on the answer to the trivia question posed in my previous post.  For those with short memories, or who are too bloody lazy to click on the link I've so helpfully provided in the last sentence, said query was: 
What does the two part episode of Batman which featured a guest appearance by the Green Hornet have in common with Star Trek?
The answer is two-fold.  First, the two parts of the episode we're talking about were entitled "A Piece of the Action" and "Batman's Satisfaction".  The former, the hard core Trekkers amongst you will immediately recognize, is also the title of a classic episode of the original Trek in which the Enterprise encounters a society modeled after a book on Chicago mobs of the 1920's left behind by previous visitors from Starfleet a century earlier.  Of course, that second season episode hadn't yet aired by the time those Batman installments ran.
The more obvious and important link, as one of my more astute and pop culture savvy readers rightly surmised, is the fact that the villain whom Batman and the Green Hornet encounter in this adventure, one Colonel Gumm, nefarious leader of a ring of stamp counterfeiters, is portrayed by Roger C. Carmel.  Carmel is best known for his portrayal of the charming rogue Harcourt Fenton (a.k.a. "Harry") Mudd in the first season episode "Mudd's Women" and the second season's "I, Mudd".  He also reprised the role for the animated episode "Mudd's Passion".
Mudd was a great character and I wish there were more episodes featuring the character.  However, in his DVD commentary for the animated episode "More Tribbles, More Troubles", David Gerrold, writer of that episode as well as the original "The Trouble with Tribbles", states that Fred Freiberger, who had taken over as producer for Trek's third year, nixed plans for a live action sequel to "Tribbles" by haughtily declaring that "Star Trek is not a comedy."  Given the light hearted tone of the episodes in which Mudd appeared, especially the outright comedy of "I, Mudd", it is likely that attitude on Freiberger's part that also doomed any chances of Mudd reappearing to further vex Kirk and his crew.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Green Hornet (Gutter Talk Trivia Challenge 3)

Last night, in honor of St. Patrick's Day, classic TV network Memorable Entertainment Television, a.k.a. MeTV, seen here in Columbus on WCMH's digital sub-channel 4.2, aired a four hour retrospective of the 1966-67 Green Hornet series starring Van Williams and featuring Bruce Lee as Kato. (They called it "The Airing of the Green...Hornet".) 
Now, I'd never seen this show before, and other than the Hornet's appearance on a two part episode of Batman, I was unfamiliar with this particuliar incarnation of the character.  I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.  For a series from William Dozier, executive producer of the Caped Crusader's then wildly popular series and which, by all accounts, owed its very presence on ABC's schedule to that show's success, Hornet is not at all what you would expect.  Rather than duplicating the campy shenanigans of Dozier's earlier hit, Green Hornet is a straightforward, slightly noir tinged, fairly typical 1960's action adventure show that takes itself quite seriously.  Unlike Batman, the villains, mostly mobsters and other common criminals rather than so-called "super-villains", are somewhat more realistic, as is the violence, with characters, including a few of the villains, actually dieing and a notable lack of  cartoony sound effects during the fight scenes, which serve as a showcase for Lee's martial arts prowess.  The Hornet operates for the most part in the shadows and under cover of darkness, with much of the action taking place at night.  Green Hornet is what I suspect those hard core comics fans who to this day lament Batman's campiness would say that show should have been.  I can't help but wonder if perhaps that's part of the reason that it lasted only one season.  Was the viewing public expecting another Batman and disappointed when it got this instead?  Still, when other networks were putting pressure on producers to make their shows more like Batman, you have to credit Dozier for not just repeating himself and trying something different.
What Green Hornet does have in common with Batman is that Dozier took yet another moribund intellectual property, hoping to make lightning strike again and propel the character into a pop culture phenomenon.  The Batman comics, you may have heard, where famously on the verge of cancellation before Dozier's show spawned a global wave of Bat-Mania.  The Hornet was even worse off.  He hadn't been seen in comics since the late 40's and the radio series that spawned the character had been off the air for almost fifteen years.
It's funny--I read on Wikipedia, while doing research for this post (which, I suspect, sets me apart from 99% of comics bloggers), that on radio the Hornet's confidant in the law enforcement establishment was the  police commissioner and Dozier changed it to the District Attorney in order to avoid comparisons to Batman, which had Commissioner Gordon, yet here I've spent the preceding two paragraphs belaboring that very comparison.
Due to the fact that it lasted only one year and, unlike it's companion series Batman, aired on a traditional one day a week schedule, Green Hornet produced a mere 26 episodes, far short of the number required for daily "strip" syndication, and thus has been rarely seen in the intervening 45 years since its initial run.  I, for one, would love to see more.  I believe that the show is available on DVD, and I hope that MeTV can find some room on its schedule for more episodes in the near future.
Anyway, I promised a trivia quiz in the headline for this post, so here it is:
The question concerns that aforementioned crossover with Batman, and invokes yet another iconic 60's TV series, namely the original Star Trek
And thus, I put it to you:  What does the two part episode of Batman which featured a guest appearance by the Green Hornet have in common with Trek?
The answer tomorrow--Same Bat-time (more or less), same Bat-web-site.
By the way, for those who give a crap, the second of my series on Firestorm, reviewing Fury of Firestorm #1 from 1982, will eventually appear.  There's no hurry, is there?  We are, after all, talking about a thirty year old comic.