Posts Tagged ‘christopher nolan’

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Bat To The Future

March 21, 2016

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Author’s Note: With BuffaloComedy.com having gone the way of the dodo (where this piece originally appeared in January of 2015) and Batman Vs. Superman just 5 agonizing days away from its theatrical release (which I’m not laying any bets on until I see it), I  thought now might be a good time to revisit my reflections on the 75th Anniversary Year of the Dark Knight Detective.  This is an essay from the upcoming book Travesty.   

By the time you read this, the year-long celebration of the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of Batman in Detective Comics (in 1939, for those of you who don’t have a calculator nearby) will have come and gone. He’s a character who has endured the test of time, and you may know Detective Comics by their abbreviation: DC. I caught hell some years ago for defending the cultural importance of the impending theatrical release of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008). It was a week-long troll battle in a lesser publication and I hate to be the guy who said I told you so, but I was right, Buffalo. That film changed the superhero film forever and demolished most (if not all) box office records. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. What follows is a personal recollection/celebration of the mythos. Dates and citations have been left out, messed up or guessed at because the author is lazy.

I’ve been a Batman fan almost all of my life. As a child, I got into the comics around the same time that I caught the syndicated reruns for the high-camp television version with Adam West, three separate Catwomen and the famed ‘Bat-usi’. This led of course to Batman:The Movie, which we have to thank for the ‘Bat Shark Repellant Spray’ incident. The utility belt can only hold so much. The Caped Crusader has gone through a lot of incarnations over the decades he’s traveled through, which may be one of the secrets behind his staying power. While it was corny and cheesy (‘camp’ is an ironic form of comedy that borders on being an endangered species), the tv series hit home for at least a few seasons.

The ’80s was a great time to get into comics since the medium was growing up in terms of maturity and readership. Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns made such a gritty impact on the pulp multiverse that college courses are still taught dissecting its importance. The story zeroes in on Batman coming out of retirement in order to stomp out the threat of a mutant gang, subvert government opposition to superheroes and to square off with Superman. Miller followed this up with Batman: Year One, a mini-series that focused on the roots of billionaire Bruce Wayne’s lifelong war on crime.

Toward the end of the decade, comic icon Alan Moore applied his craft to The Killing Joke, a one-shot story where the reader is taken through a retelling of The Joker’s origin, Commissioner Gordon’s daughter is crippled by same, the Commissioner’s sanity is tried by The Joker and Batman’s is questioned at the close of the arc with a punchline and a recurring pattern of raindrops. The Joker postulates throughout the book that the difference between sanity and insanity is just one bad day. Batman tries to prove him wrong.

In the early ’90s, mainstay Grant Morrison took a turn with Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On Serious Earth. I re-read this book almost every year and always come away with something new in this layered psychological examination of the aberrant psyche. Batman infiltrates the asylum (which the inmates have taken control of spear-headed by the Joker) and tries to keep his head while everyone else’s is long gone. This is interspersed with the story of how Arkham Asylum came to be, which is quite haunting to say the least.

Meanwhile, in the single issues, there was the groundbreaking A Death In The Family, a story arc that was revolutionary because DC set up 1-800 lines so that readers could vote on the fate of Robin at the hands of (you guessed it) The Joker. For you younger readers, people used to have phones in their house attached to the walls that we called ‘Land Lines’. A 1-800 number was a ‘toll free’ number that residents could ‘dial’ on said Land Lines. Spoiler alert (not sure if it’s a spoiler alert twenty five years later): the readers killed off Robin. Luckily, nobody ever stays dead in comics for some reason, and that particular Boy Wonder (there have been around four) came back in Under The Red Hood.

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Afterthoughts on ‘The Dark Knight’ and a week of the flying rat at BRO

July 19, 2008

     The movie was perfection, plain and simple.  See it.  Multiple times.  On the opening weekend.  Bring friends, loved ones, pets and enemies and overpay for your tickets and concessions.  Above all else, see it. 

     As for the Buffalo Rising Online 5-parter, it is accomplished.  My work is done now, and I can relax and be at peace.  Think of Andy Kaufman from time to time.  I put some hard thought into the ‘trolls’ who post frequently with their two cents along with the other fifty percent of the readers who have some interesting, amusing and insightful feedback and came to this salient decision today:  the forum is for them.  That’s their headspace, not mine.  It’s not my right (nor my obligation) to chime in to the way they react to whatever nonsense it is that I have to contribute.

     Again, though, I’d like to point out that I care less than nothing about personal criticism or attacks.  Rip my writing to shreds all day and all night long.  That I can take.  I realize that my writing is an acquired taste (not unlike a single malt scotch) and that some people are never going to get a hankering for said taste.  That’s fine.  My objective has always been to polarize.  Love it or hate it, I want a response.  And that’s worked for me for a long, long, long time.  I’m more than happy to be the humble scribbler or the sinister villian: whichever role suits you best.  I’m cool with that, too.

     But don’t take it out on the comics.  I love comics, and as Ian (from Don’s Atomic) and I were discussing last night during a bar review at Marinaccio’s in Amherst, comics are taken a lot more seriously in the rest of the world.  The culture in Canada, Japan and Europe is much more advanced, supportive and encouraging where graphic novels and adult black and white stories are concerned.  Isn’t it time we got with the program where this is concerned?  I love rooting for the underdog, and comic books happen to be one of those horses that you don’t back.  So I’m taking the cause up.  I write columns for Night Life, bar reviews for the Buffalo News, and celebrity interviews and graphic novel reviews for Buffalo Rising.  Something different for everyone.  You can’t look at one piece of the pie and honestly think that that’s all I do.  It’s foolish to churn out the same creative rhubarb for every single publication in town and out of town, though.  Think on that for a bit and maybe it will make sense.

     Turning in for bed.  What a beautiful day.  Goodnight, moon.  Goodnight stars.  Goodnight, Christopher Nolan, Christian Bale and goodbye forever, Heath.  Great way to say adieu…

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Why So Serious? Heath Ledger Joker Trifecta/Countdown To The Dark Knight

June 20, 2008

     It’s far from a well-kept secret that I’m a Batman super-freak.  And thank god that we’re less than a month away from Christopher Nolan’s new visionary masterpiece, ‘The Dark Night’ which, as reported, is the only Batman film without ‘Batman’ in the title because, amazingly, Nolan wants it to be a ‘darker’ departure from the last film.  Darker?  Fantastic.  As if ‘Batman Begins’ was a rosy kaliedoscope of happiness and rainbows.  I’m so psyched about the new film (and the accompanying animated film for simultaneous release on DVD via the marketing wizards at Warner Bros.) that I can’t contain myself.  It’s eating away at me that the new feature length live-action film hasn’t been released yet, and I literally cannot wait.  The promos, viral videos and bumper ads on Myspace are eroding what little patience I have regarding the new movie.  On the one hand, I don’t understand why they waited this late in the summer blockbuster season to release what is obviously going to be a cultural event on par with ‘Titanic’, but then again, I can see why WB wouldn’t want to go head-to-head with ‘Iron Man’ or ‘The Incredible Hulk’ (the latter of which I have a mild interest in’. 

     As far as I’ve always been concerned, The Joker is the main star of the show.  I’ve got two and a half short mylar boxes stuffed to the rafters with Batman comics, one-offs and graphic novels and in my humble opinion, The Joker has been the real star of the show the entire time.   Super-hero stories are defined by their villains.  I’ve also had the recent pleasure of reading Batman: Monsters & Madmen (which I was so bowled over with that I wrote a gushing review on for Buffalo Rising) and the impulsive delight of picking up a Batman: The Killing Joke anniversary figurine pack with a delectable vacation Joker, Batman and a trade copy (in whichever iteration or printing, most likely the seventh or eighth or ninth) of The Killing Joke, which is without question one of the top five Batman/Joker stories of all time.  Top this off with a handsome anniversary hardcover of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke and you’ve got a recipe for impatience.  Why isn’t it July 18th yet, goddamnit!  Agh!

     And it doesn’t take a psychologist to determine why I’m so attached to the mythos.  A sociopathic clown who was a former standup comic with anti-social tendencies and a flair for the theatric.  Hmph.  Love it.  Love it, love it, love it.  I’ve seen every single film in the theater (which is a big deal considering that I see about two movies a year on the big screen), I’ve got every copy of Paul Dini’s animated series, a handful of Batman Beyond seasons and a few of the animated films (Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm being the jewel of the crop). 

     Every sign points to Heath Ledger’s performance as being nothing less than once-in-a-lifetime.  The hype factor over his recent death is going to make this the movie of the summer, bar none.  Nicholson (also a hero of mine) is furious that he wasn’t even considered for the role of the Joker, but give me an f-ing break, Jack.  The new series is a re-boot, and there’s no place in the continuity to explain bringing back a 60-something who defined the role eighteen years ago. 

     They say that Ledger spent a month holed up in a hotel room getting a feel for the role reading tomes including The Killing Joke and Arkham Asylum while keeping a notebook so that he could record thoughts that the Joker would find funny.  Good on ya, Heath.  I’m not going to pounce on the bandwagon and pretend that I gave the vaguest shit about his other work, because I don’t.  A Knight’s Tale and Brokeback Mountain?  Couldn’t care less.  Just from the clips, though, it’s clear that he fell hook, line and sinker into the role and knocked it straight out of the ballpark and right into the pantheon on the way out of this mortal coil.

     Plus there’s the collectible factor, which is eating away at me.  After combing the web to find a new action figure that never even APPEARED on store shelves, I discovered that there’s not one, but three new Ledger facsimiles.  I’ve got a small pumpkin patch of Joker figurines at home (the crown jewels being an ’80s era Justice League figure and not one, but two Dark Knight returns Jokers, one in box, one outside the box) so there was no way in hell that I was going without one of the new ones.  Apparently, Mattel came to the shocking conclusion that a likeness of the homicidal lunatic from the new film in Ledger’s visage was too scary for children, so they decided to render the 6 inch figure ‘Collector’s Edition’.   Bullshit.  No company is that stupid.  They’re driving the values up.  It doesn’t take a criminal mastermind to figure that one out.  So aside from a chilling 6 inch figure, they’ve released a watered down 5 inch figure.  And another company has released an 11 inch that’s a spitting image of Heath walking down the middle of the street with a switchblade licking his lips like a rabid dog in the trailers for the film.  It retailed from DC Direct as a bundle pack with Batman (like anyone cares about him).  The Joker statue alone is starting at $125 on Ebay.  While this is slowly eating away at me, I can’t justify spending $125 on a toy that’s going to sit on my shelves of curios in my study. 

     The Joker (as a collectible) has always remained a hot item.  When cases of new figures come out, he’s a variable, he’s a rarity, and he’s the first to dissappear from big box toy retailers before he even make the sales floor.  I’m not a big toy geek, truly.  But I’ve been amassing a small collection of Joker figures here and there that could be the envy of any collector come early August.  I have zero intention of selling any of them, but in all likelihood, I’ll snap like a rubber band and buy the new 11 inch stature.  Along with seeing the new film five or six times in solemn fascination in theaters.  Less than four weeks to go.  Why so serious?  Because I can barely contain myself, that’s why. 

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