Batman '66 Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources
Following DC Comics’ solicitations over the past few months has been fairly intriguing. The company’s West Coast move in early 2015 looms over all its actions, and makes it hard to gauge whether a new series or new creative team is a long-term commitment or a brief burst of experimentation. Moreover, that makes it tempting to say that anything you don’t like — or, for that matter, anything you do like — might be gone by April.
Oh, well. A little paranoia can’t hurt, but we’re not here to talk about that. Open a window to the November solicits and read along!
November brings new creative teams for Wonder Woman (the Finches and Richard Friend), Superman/Wonder Woman (Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke) and Supergirl (Mike Johnson, Kate Perkins and Emanuela Lupacchino). I’m still in wait-and-see mode on the Finches. However, after several years of reading Tomasi and Mahnke’s work, I feel like I know what’s coming from them. S/WW should look great, as Mahnke is no stranger to either Superman or Wonder Woman, having drawn JLA and various issues of the New 52 Justice League. I suppose I’m cautiously optimistic about Tomasi, because this is the sort of book that plays to his strengths. He’s good at reconciling and unifying different perspectives on characters, and that’s pretty much what S/WW has always had to overcome. Ironically, it’ll probably be less of a concern in the absence of Azzarello and Chiang, but I suspect Tomasi will keep those elements around.
“Why has it endured? Because you, sir, can be Batman — you hang out with me, and you’ll see. All you have to do is be crazy enough to fight crime 24/7, right?”
DC Comics’ Selfie Variant Month posed a particular problem for Batman ’66, the digital-first series set in the world of the 1966-1968 television show, decades before the introduction of smartphones, or even digital cameras. Cover artist Joe Quinones could’ve gone with an instant camera, of course — what screams “1960s” more than a Polaroid Model 20 Swinger? — but instead he came up with a solution that’s both funnier and in keeping with the tone of the TV series.
What’s this? DC Digital Editor Jim Chadwick doubling down on the delayed debut of television’s Two-Face? An unproduced script from the immortal Harlan Ellison to be adapted for the Batman ’66 digital-first series?
That was the word from the DC Digital panel at this year’s Comic-Con. Not to be outdone by IDW’s adaptation of Ellison’s original “City on the Edge of Forever” script, writer Len Wein, penciller Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, and inker Joe Prado are bringing Two-Face into the Batman ’66 world.
The biggest comics news Thursday out of Comic-Con International was undoubtedly that, after years of debate, comiXology has introduced DRM-free backups of titles purchased from its storefront, with Image Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, MonkeyBrain Comics, Thrillbent, Top Shelf Productions and Zenescope Entertainment signing on to the program.
An email went out last night notifying customers that books they’ve purchased can be downloaded and stored as PDF or CBZ files, and pointing them to an FAQ on the subject.
“This has been an oft-requested feature,” comiXology CEO David Steinberger said during the company’s Comic-Con panel. “It’s a real backup file — it’s a fairly plain PDF or CBZ. They are high resolution, not a lot of bells and whistles, and my feeling is that people will continue to use the cloud-based reader to do their reading.”
The other big announcement was that Marvel will publish Avengers: Age of Ultron, an in-continuity graphic novel by the Uncanny X-Force team of Rick Remender, Jerome Opeña and Dean White scheduled to arrive in April 2015, ahead of the premiere of Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Mattel has revealed a lineup of Comic-Con International exclusives that includes Cyborg and Doomsday action figures, the Batman: Arkham Knight Batmobile and — get this — a replica of the Caped Crusader’s utility belt from the 1966 TV series.
I would delve into all of the other offerings, like the Hot Wheels Darth Vader die-cast car or the Masters of the Universe figures, but you’re probably more interested in that utility belt (so I’ll leave the rest of that stuff to USA Today).
When I first heard about DC Comics’ digital-first Batman ’66, I thought it was going to be a novelty with little staying power. Nostalgia for the campy Adam West TV series has been pretty high lately, especially in the wake of the popular The Brave and the Bold cartoon, and the artists behind Batman ’66 are faithful to the ’60s pop-art look, most spectacularly rendered by Jonathan Case in the debut issues. But what happens once the initial thrill has passed, and you clear away the cobwebs of nostalgia?
Second, there’s the unique format: When you swiped the page on a tablet, you’d sometimes get limited animation, you’d sometimes get a view of the artwork with the balloons out of the way, and sometimes you would experience a slight shift in the color palette with some retro screentone effects here and there. Sure, it’s a little gimmicky … but it was employed a truly artistic sensibility that’s impossible to replicate on paper. Sadly, as early as Issue 4, the novelty is seemingly abandoned.
Politics | Framing the controversy as part of a larger political battle between South Carolina’s lawmakers and its public universities, The Washington Post wades into the ongoing saga surrounding the House of Representatives’ vote to reduce funding to two schools after they selected gay-themed books for their summer reading programs. The newspaper uses as its entry point the Monday performances in Charleston of Fun Home, the musical adaptation of the Alison Bechdel graphic novel that was chosen last summer by the College of Charleston, drawing the ire of a South Carolina Christian group and conservative lawmakers. The Post reports that several state legislators suggested they viewed the staging of the musical as “a deliberate provocation,” and will seek to cut even more funding in response. The South Carolina Senate has yet to vote on the state budget, which includes the cuts to the schools. [The Washington Post]
Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about, as it says above, “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out. So without further ado, let’s get to it …
Italian artist Denis Medri has made a name for himself on the comics Internet for his various series of themed superhero portraits, from 1950s Rockabilly Batman to steampunk Spider-Man. As it turns out, this fanart attracted the attention of DC Entertainment.
Although Medri said the company balked at making an official comic based on his art, saying it would “create confusion,” an editor asked him to submit sample pages for the then-forthcoming Batman ’66 digital-first series. Medri did a number of samples specifically for the project, but never heard back. Undeterred, Medri has posted these samples online:
Legal | More details have emerged about Hirofumi Watanabe, the 36-year-old man suspected of sending more than 400 threatening letters to convention centers, retailers and other sites in Japan associated with the manga Kuroko’s Basketball. The newspaper Mainichi Shimbun revealed Watanabe studied anime at a vocational school but dropped out at age 20. Also, a search of Watanabe’s apartment turned up toilet bowl cleaner, a scrap of paper that said “creating hydrogen sulfide” and, not surprisingly, several volumes of Kuroko’s Basketball.
Oddly, Watanabe claims to be two different perpetrators who use two different accents, standard Japanese and a Kansai accent, and many of the statements he made in his letters and online postings, including that he was acquainted with Kuroko’s Basketball creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki, appear to be false. Anime News Network also reports that when he was arrested, Watanabe had about 20 threat letters in his backpack, and that he told police he was jealous of Fujimaki’s success. [Anime News Network]
This tidbit seems perfectly timed, considering both the success of DC Comics’ digital-first Batman ’66, and Tom Bondurant’s recent column about DC-inspired movies and television series that should make their way to comics: Author and screenwriter Harlan Ellison wrote a (fittingly) two-part Two-Face story for the classic Batman TV show that, alas, was never produced.
Neil Gaiman discovered that detail over the weekend — “WHY IS THIS NOT NEWS?” he tweeted — in the description for the fifth volume of Harlan Ellison’s Brain Movies, a series that collects his original teleplays.
The listing reads: “SEE ELLISON’S FIRST ADVENTURE WITH THE CAPED CRUSADER: Though Harlan’s written numerous comic book scripts for the Dark Knight, his first slide down the Bat-Pole was in 1966 when he pitched an episode to ABC’s Batman, starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Tragically—for reasons explained in the editor’s notes—’The Two-Way Crimes of Two-Face’ treatment was never produced, but now you can read what the Unrepentant Harlequin had in mind for the Dynamic Duo and their Bifurcated Foe.”
So much time, money and creative effort is spent to bring comic-book superheroes to moving-picture life that it’s almost backward to contemplate how those adapted environments could be translated back into comics form. Thanks to technology, live-action and animated adaptations are finding new ways to convince viewers they’re seeing powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.
And yet, these adaptations only go so far. Movies trade spectacle for (relative) brevity, offering two-plus hours of adventure every two to three years. The reverse is true for television, which is more prolific but often less earth-shattering. Both have to deal with practical considerations such as running time, actor availability, and the streamlining of complicated backstories. Thus, to borrow a phrase from politics, adaptations are often exercises in “the art of the possible.” By comparison, comics have much fewer limitations.
Therefore, comics versions of those adaptations must necessarily limit themselves, even if they only choose to work within some of those real-world limitations. Sometimes this is as simple as telling stories set within the adaptation’s version of continuity. However, sometimes comics are the most practical way to “continue” a well-liked adaptation, and thereby perpetuate its visual and tonal appeal.
DC Comics hasn’t had a particularly good run of things lately. To be frank, the publisher has done blown it a number of times over the past few years. But don’t worry, DC fans — I’m sure it’ll soon be Marvel’s turn, as the two rivals seem to trade off every five years or so.
I’ve been calling out DC for the past couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean everything it does strikes me as wrong. It’s important to declare shenanigans, but it’s also important to recognize when a publisher does something that’s good for comics.
So here are six things DC is doing right:
1. Digital comics: Legends of the Dark Knight and Adventures of Superman are digital-first anthology series that feature some excellent creators (from Jeff Parker and Chris Samnee to J.M. DeMatteis and Jeff Lemire) producing completely accessible and entertaining stories that stand on their own; no college course on the New 52 or Crisis on Infinite Earths required. Yes, these stories are out of continuity — so for a percentage of readers, they don’t count. That’s a mistake, because there’s nothing wrong with a straight-up superhero tale that exists on its own terms. These two anthologies are the gems of DC’s digital-first line-up, but Batman ’66 and Batman: Li’l Gotham also offer fantastical takes on the iconic Caped Crusader that are bright and fun. For those exhausted by the angsty versions of serious stories, you owe it to yourself to check these out.
I talked about it last week, but there’s a lot to unpack in the recent Williams-and-Blackman-leave-Batwoman imbroglio. Part of it is DC Comics’ apparent need to keep characters relatively unchanged, which these days includes being young and unmarried. Co-Publisher Dan DiDio has already explained this in terms of heroic sacrifice, so I suppose that’s as close as we may get to official company policy on the matter.
However, before DiDio made his comments, I was wondering whether DC didn’t want the non-costumed half of Batwoman’s main couple to remain single and uncomplicated. After all, Maggie Sawyer goes back further than Kate Kane, and has appeared in both the animated Superman series and in Smallville. Thus, a certain part of the TV-watching public probably associates Maggie Sawyer more with Superman than with Batwoman; and DC might not want to have her tied permanently to the Bat-office.
This, in turn, brings up the issue of DC as a “content farm,” providing material for future adaptations. Obviously the publisher has almost 80 years’ worth of characters and stories ready to provide inspiration. Indeed, over the decades, that inspiration has gone both ways. However, more recently it seems like the adaptations have been influencing the comics to a greater degree than the comics have been influencing the adaptations, and in the long run that’s not good for either side.