TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 9 – Spotlight on Bob Kane (1992)

Released: 1992
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Bob Kane

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 38 Minutes

Review:

Batman is the character that really made me buy comic books on a monthly basis. Because of my love of everything Batman, especially after seeing the 1989 movie, I always had a love and appreciation for Bob Kane, the creator of the Caped Crusader. Granted, I knew nothing about Bill Finger back then because Bob Kane was a credit hog and a dick.

This episode of The Comic Book Greats doesn’t help Kane when you watch this now, knowing what we all know about the man. I didn’t see this episode in 1992 and I’m not sure if I would have picked up on it back then but man, Kane really is a dick… like all the time.

Stan Lee was a gracious host, as always, but Kane would get sidetracked in this interview to bitch about people taking credit for his work. Funny, because that’s something he was guilty of for decades. The dude just has a hell of an ego and he probably bottles his own farts to sniff later.

That being said, I wouldn’t call this episode off-putting or a waste of time, it’s actually one of the more entertaining ones because Kane is animated and charismatic. The banter between these two men is good, even if Kane tries to take shots at people and it’s obvious Stan isn’t comfortable in those moments.

The Comic Book Greats is a solid series that I wish would have lived on longer than it did. While I don’t like Kane, the man, I still found this to be pretty damn engaging.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.

 

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Rorschach

Published: August 15th, 2012 – March 6th, 2013
Written by: Brian Azzarello, Len Wein
Art by: Lee Bermejo, John Higgins, Barbara Ciardo
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 111 Pages

Review:

I needed about twenty minutes to collect myself after reading this four issue story arc by Brian Azzarello and Len Wein. This shit took my breath away, which comic books don’t do very often.

This was the second story arc I read in the Before Watchmen series, having just read the one about the Comedian before this. As great as I thought that one was, this one just grabbed me and didn’t let go until well after I closed the cover.

The story here is very personal and very intense. It helps to humanize Rorschach, a guy that comes off as kind of one-dimensional in how he exists within the original Watchmen story. That’s not a knock against Alan Moore’s work but Rorschach was really just a force of nature in the most famous piece of work that featured him and here, we are able to understand him with much more depth and emotion.

Reading Watchmen, we already know about his childhood but here, we see things that happened to him as an adult that helped to shape him even further.

This is dark and gritty but not in some sort of ’90s edge lord way that is trying too hard to be like the work of Alan Moore or Frank Miller. This is dark and gritty in a way that builds off of Moore’s work in an interesting and meaningful way. It improves upon this character in a fantastic way and if I’m being brutally honest, it made me have to shut up regarding whatever criticism I once had for other people touching Moore’s work.

Azzarello and Wein proved my initial assessment wrong and wrote something compelling that enhances the rich world that I once wanted to remain untouched.

Additionally, the art style employed here is perfect.

This is a great comic book and even though it isn’t the masterpiece that Watchmen is, it deserves to stand right next to it. And I don’t say any of this lightly.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Comic Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws, Vol. 2: Who Is Artemis?

Published: October 10th, 2017
Written by: Scott Lobdell
Art by: Mirko Colak, Kenneth Rocafort, Dexter Soy

DC Comics, 117 Pages

Review:

This is about where I picked up the Red Hood and the Outlaw series. It was nice going back and reading this whole story arc, especially after getting more context from the arc before it.

In this chapter, we see the bond between Red Hood, Artemis and Bizarro strengthen. They still aren’t as tight as they will become but there is a trust and respect being formed after a bit of a rocky start.

This continues the plot thread about Artemis trying to track down a mystical Amazonian bow. It gives us some of her backstory and introduces us to her former best friend who has been corrupted by the power she was given to be the proper wielder of the bow. It’s a battle of the Amazons and even Wonder Woman shows up here.

The story also takes the Red Hood back to the exact spot where he was murdered by the Joker years earlier when he was the second Robin. Additionally, Bizarro learns to be a hero for the people of the foreign land that our trio finds themselves in.

Who Is Artmeis? had some solid writing by Scott Lobdell and the art was also really good.

I love this series and this story arc enriches these characters, their union and the DC Universe as a whole.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other Red Hood and the Outlaws collections post-Rebirth. Also, the recent Bat-family titles: NightwingBatgirl and also the current runs on Suicide Squad and Deathstroke.

Documentary Review: The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? (2015)

Release Date: April 30th, 2015 (limited)
Directed by: Jon Schnepp
Written by: Jon Schnepp
Music by: Frederick William Scott
Cast: Nicolas Cage (archive footage), Tim Burton, Kevin Smith

Super Skull Ship, 104 Minutes

Review:

Superman Lives was a film that never happened but I have always been intrigued by what it could have been.

Years ago, there was a picture of a long haired Nicolas Cage in a Superman costume with his eyes half shut; it looked really bizarre. Most fans of superhero films have probably seen this famous picture at some point or another. But that really set the stage for what this bizarre interpretation of Superman was.

Hearing that Tim Burton was working on the movie and that Kevin Smith had written a script for it, made this project even more bizarre. Burton had a falling out with the studio after issues arose during the production of what would have been his third Batman movie and Smith was a comic book fanboy that was mostly known for his stoner comedies that featured Jay and Silent Bob.

No one seemed to know much else about this strange project though. So once I heard about this documentary, I had a very strong desire to check it out, especially since we got to hear the details from the mouths of Burton and Smith.

On one hand, this was a truly strange motion picture but on the other hand, it wasn’t as insane as one might think if they saw that photo of Nic Cage.

This documentary was pretty solid and it covered a lot of ground from a lot of different angles. Everyone has their own version of the events and the truth is probably somewhere in the middle but this was an interesting story, nonetheless.

I’m actually glad that the film didn’t get made and that we got Superman Returns instead of this, even if it’s far from a perfect film. Superman Lives wasn’t really in tune with what Superman is. It could have been an insane and awesome motion picture in its own way and maybe the creators should revisit this concept as a movie for a new character that isn’t one that already comes with 80 years of his own lore built in.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about superhero filmmaking or films that never materialized: Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four or Jodorowsky’s Dune for instance.

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Comedian

Published: June 20th, 2012 – April 24th, 2013
Written by: Brian Azzarello, Len Wein, John Higgins
Art by: John Higgins, JG Jones, Alex Sinclair
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 148 Pages

Review:

When this was first announced, I wasn’t too keen on anyone other than Alan Moore working on anything Watchmen related. My stance on that changed before I read this but I still never thought that anything else featuring these characters would live up to the greatness of Moore’s masterpiece.

Before Watchmen: Comedian isn’t a masterpiece but it is still damn good and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It gives me hope that the other Before Watchmen installments will also be superb.

This was a comic book that I never wanted but I’m glad that I got it. I love the Comedian character and in fact, he’s my favorite from the Watchmen universe. Also, due to my love of Jeffrey Dean Morgan, it’s hard for me not to see him as this character, even in comic book form. And to be honest, I would be so game for an adaptation of this story with Morgan returning to the Comedian role.

I think that this was as good as it was because Brian Azzarello respected what came before. He made something very damn close to the tone and style of Alan Moore’s work. Len Wein also contributed to some of the writing, as well, and both of these men seem to have a real admiration for the source material.

I also thought that the art was really good. It captures the vibe of the old school Dave Gibbons atmosphere with a bit of a modernized twist to it.

This book, as well as the others in this series, serve to give thorough backstories to the key characters of Watchmen lore. Purists of the original material don’t have to read this or even consider it canon but I do, at this point. DC has been doing a lot with these characters lately and I’m kind of digging it, as long as their use works well with the original work they appeared in.

Comic books and comic characters evolve. It’s always been this way. Batman was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger back in 1939 but dozens upon dozens of people have taken their turn writing the character. Some of them don’t hit the mark but many of them do. Comic books are a medium where this is the norm, especially with characters owned by DC or Marvel. So I’m not against prequels, sequels and other stories featuring Watchmen characters. I just hope that they can maintain a certain quality.

Before Watchmen: Comedian is quality. And if anything, it’s made me pretty excited to delve into the other Before Watchmen installments.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Comic Review: Deathstroke: Arkham

Published: October 3rd, 2018 – February 6th, 2019
Written by: Christopher Priest
Art by: various

DC Comics, 134 Pages

Review:

Christopher Priest’s run on Deathstroke has been legendary but I also feel that it doesn’t get enough credit and seems to barely get any fanfare. Priest just understands Slade Wilson, his dynamic with other characters in the DC Universe and really gives the character more depth and complexity.

Following the Deathstroke Vs. Batman storyline, this arc sees Deathstroke sent to Arkham Asylum. While there, a lot of strange things start happening. I don’t want to give away too much but this does feature a ton of classic Batman villains with a lot of time given to Two-Face and Dr. Hugo Strange.

This was a fun story arc that continues to build off of the work that Priest has given us on this title. While there are different artists working on the five issues that make up this plot, everything felt consistent and matches the tone of the series thus far.

There isn’t much else I can say that I haven’t already said in reviews of other installments of Priest’s Deathstroke run. This continues to be good; Priest hasn’t lost a step or slipped into a state of redundancy, which is common when a writer works on a comic book for more than a few years.

Deathstroke: Arkham continues the title character’s journey in such a rich and interesting way that fans of him should truly enjoy this series. It’s been my favorite lengthy run on the character since his original title Deathstroke, The Terminator. In fact, I want to go back and revisit that series to see how it compares to this one.

Sure, I have my own personal bias towards Deathstroke but this is one of the best comic books being written today. More people should be picking this up monthly.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other story arcs in the current Deathstroke title, as well as The Silencer and Suicide Squad.

Comic Review: Vigilante by Marv Wolfman, Vol. 1

Published: 1983-1984 (original single issues run)
Written by: Marv Wolfman
Art by: Keith Polland, George Perez, various

DC Comics, 318 Pages

Review:

I remember seeing copies of the Vigilante on shelves and in long boxes back in the day when I used to spend every dollar of my allowance on comics. I never knew much about the character other than he always had comics with striking covers. At the time, I think I just assumed he was one of a million Punisher or Deathstroke ripoffs and never really gave him a shot. But now that I am an adult with some disposable income, I wanted to see what was beyond the great covers that always adorned this comic book series.

Seeing that Marv Wolfman created the character and wrote this series was a big selling point, as this came out when Wolfman was writing some of his best work. I’m primarily talking about his run on The New Teen Titans, which is also where Vigilante debuted – in the second annual, to be exact.

This collection starts with that first appearance and then collects the first 11 issues of the Vigilante comic.

I guess the thing that’s most cool about Vigilante is that while the hero is a gun carrying vigilante out for justice in an effort to correct a flawed system, his backstory certainly isn’t cookie cutter. While he loses his family in a similar way to Frank Castle a.k.a. The Punisher, it’s almost as if he is a cross between Castle and Harvey Dent. Although, he luckily avoids getting half of his face melted off with acid.

The Vigilante is Adrian Chase, an attorney that has tried to stop the mob for years but constantly sees a corrupt legal system fail, again and again. The murder of his family is the final straw. But his origin, once you get to that issue, is really weird and even has some mystical elements to it.

The Vigilante is probably the best good guy out of all the other characters that embody the “vigilante” trope. While he breaks the law, trying to uphold the law, he is often times at odds with himself and second guessing his tactics. After the first 11 issues of his series, he’s still not settled on what way is the right way or if he’s even doing what’s best for society.

There are a lot of layers and Marv Wolfman gave us a really dynamic series here. Frankly, this is vastly underappreciated and sadly, mostly forgotten.

Adrian Chase got new life in modern times as a character on the TV show Arrow but that incarnation was called Prometheus and he was a straight up villain out to make Green Arrow suffer.

If you like these type of characters, this will most assuredly be a refreshing read for you. It is not a retread of dozens of similar characters. It’s a unique take on the genre and it’s much more intelligent than most of the titles you can compare it to.

Plus, the art is strikingly beautiful and the Vigilante has a really cool costume that’s one part retro and two parts badass.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Marv Wolfman’s run on The New Teen Titans, as well as ’80s stories featuring Deathstroke.