Batman Unmasked (Will Brooker, 2000)

I recently finished Batman Unmasked: Analyzing a Cultural Icon, by Will Brooker. The last thing I expected when I picked it up was an academic treatise on Batman's impact on culture.

Brooker starts and ends his book with discussions of readings and authorship - discussing ownership and fandom, interpretation and critique. Who owns Batman? Who determines who Batman is? As much a dialogue on Batman as it is a discourse on interpretation of art and literature, they bookend an interesting cultural chronology. In between, he takes a tour through Batman, beginning with his roots and his participation (or non-participitation) in World War II and on through the censorship of the 50's, the camp of the 60's, and into Batman in the 90's. On the journey, he touches on many things, including the merchandising crazes of the 40's and the 60's, when Batman was not only the best thing since sliced bread, but you could even get Batman sliced bread.

Batman Unmasked is worth looking into for the different spin he gives on Frederic Wertham. While Brooker suggests that he's not an apologist for Wertham, he definitely casts Wertham in a different light, painting him to be less of a villain than he's normally given credit for in comic book circles. He also takes a different tack with Adam West and the ABC television series, attempting to properly put the show in it's cultural setting, along with describing it's debt to pop art and camp.

I won't attempt to summarize these arguments here; if you want to find out about what Brooker has to say, take a look at his book. If you're interested in culture, history, comics, or Batman, this book should provide some interesting reading. After reading this, I've re-evaluated some thoughts about both Wertham and the 60's television show. I've got to do more reading on Wertham, but Brooker sheds some light in some areas I didn't see before.


Free Comic Book Day Pop Culture Crossover

While they're listed in the February Previews, I thought they warranted their own entry. If any of the following comics interest you, let your local comic book store know you'd like to see them on Free Comic Book Day (May 5, 2007).


  • Transformers: The Movie Prequel (IDW Publishing)
    Or should this be under toys?


  • The Lone Ranger / New Battlestar Galactica Flip Book (Dynamite Entertainment)
    Featuring Battlestar Galactica: Year One #0 and Lone Ranger: The Creed #0.

  • Bongo Comics Free-For-All (Bongo Comics)
    The official comic book company of the Simpsons.
  • Gumby Special (Wildcard Ink)
    The stop motion giant himself.
  • The Legion of Super-Heroes In the 31st Century #1 (DC)
    Based on the new cartoon on Cartoon Network.


  • Digital Webbing Jam (Digital Webbing)
    Featuring BloodRayne.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics)


Painkiller Jane on Tonight on Sci Fi

I just saw on the Sci Fi Channel that their original movie, Painkiller Jane, is on tonight (7/6 C); probably in anticipation of the series starting in April. Catch it if you missed it. It's great!

Zoom: Academy for Superheroes (2006) mini review

based on a comic book

There was a lot bad press about this film, and a lot of bad reviews. I didn't get a chance to watch it in the theater, so I picked it up on DVD. Because of the bad press, I thought I'd lower my expectations. A lot. And, I thought if I lowered the bar, then I would likely be pleasantly surprised, and I'd like the movie a lot more than I expected.

I still think it was a great plan; it's unfortunate that it didn't work.

Zoom: Academy for Superheroes, based either on the comic - Zoom's Academy for the Super Gifted - or the children's book - Amazing Adventures from Zoom's Academy - depending on whichever version you you believe, came out this past Tuesday on DVD. In the film, has-been and powerless superhero Zoom (Tim Allen), is brought out of retirement to train a new team of superheroes to prepare for the impending return of his nemesis, Concussion (Kevin Zegers - Smallville). It's too bad the new team is a bunch of misfit kids that the reluctant Zoom won't likely to be able to train before zero hour.

Zoom is about as bad as everyone says. But first the good. There are a few laugh out loud jokes, and one extremely funny scene near the end of the movie - but it's much funnier if I don't spoil it, so I won't. Another thing I found redeeming was the cute nod to comic collectors toward the beginning. Miss Halloway (Courteney Cox) plays the psychologist/researcher who is partly responsible for the children; and she has "every issue of Zoom and His Amazing Team". When she later shows them to the kids, she pulls out the "pH-balancing, antibacterial gloves". Well, I can take the joke, because I've been there. The DVD menu was pretty slick, too, as were the opening credits. It's done more and more, but I still like introducing a comic book or superhero film with comic book art.

Anyway, on to the bad. The film is poorly written and poorly executed. On top of that, it's horribly disjointed. Character development is forced and comes in sudden gasps. I almost get the impression that the film was much, much longer, and in post, they edited out all the explanatory sequences that made the movie flow, along with the important character development. And of course, the obligatory climax of any superhero movie culminates in an extremely contrived scene when all of the superheroes learn to use their powers together to be victorious.

And finally, the ugly. It's almost like someone said, Let's cash in on the currently popular superhero movie genre - the formula goes like this: make the writing stupid and corny, make the characters act unrealistic, and make sure everyone overacts. Rip Torn (General Larraby; Men In Black, Men In Black II) is a good over-actor. You expect that. Courteney Cox is a bad over-actor.

A disturbing side note is Cox's character. She's a psychologist. She's a "researcher". And she's Miss Halloway. I'm sure the researcher/psychologist wouldn't have a Ph.D. I'm glad that the only one with the real education in the film was Chevy Chase playing the buffoon, Dr. Grant. What is this, 1952? Plus, Cox steals Chase's schtick by tripping and falling down through the whole movie. She's the penultimate nerd; just not smart enough to make it through school.

The really sad thing about all these holes is that, collectively, these actors have been in enough good films that they could have written a better movie on the fly.

And, lastly, they had to waste Five For Fighting's Superman and Enrique Iglesias's Hero on this film.

See it if you've got a major thing for superhero films and you've got some time to kill.

Don't see it if you'd rather hunt down the comics, which I'm sure (sight unseen) are much better.


The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl (2005) mini review

superhero film not based on a comic

11-year-old Max (Cayden Boyd, Angel - in flashback, X-Men: The Last Stand) doesn't have many friends. He makes up a couple of superheroes to spend the summer with, and when close-minded teachers and pig-headed bullies terrorize him, they come to life.

This movie wasn't so bad for acquainting my 4-year-old daughter with live-action superhero films. It's watchable, there's some decent humor; it's a fun film. It's definitely for the younger crowd, though adults should find some entertainment value. There's not much to say beyond that. The story and the writing are geared directly to kids, and it's kind of disappointing, given that it's a Robert Rodriguez film, that it's not written on multiple levels to appeal more to all ages. I suppose it may have been better in 3-D, but when I recorded off of Encore, it didn't have that option.

I don't mind message-y movies - as long as they're subtle; and this one doesn't (really) hit you over the head. But it's a theme that's near and dear to my heart. Don't grow up too fast; don't be to keen on getting rid of that child-like imagination or lose that innocence.

See it if you've got young kids that you want to introduce to superhero movies.

Don't see it on your own, especially if you're expecting more from director of Sin City.


February '07 Previews Pop Culture Crossover

I intended to post this a couple weeks ago, but things just get in the way sometimes.

Here are some interesting one-shots, minis, graphic novels, TPBs, and series' beginnings listed in this month's Previews, on sale in April; you can find them listed under their particular publishers. Note: If I don't note the format, Previews doesn't show it. I have a feeling that means it's probably a mini-series - and they haven't commited to the length. But then I might be full of it.


  • Anita Blake Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures Handbook (Marvel, One-Shot)
    I've always been curious about the novels, but haven't picked one up.
  • The Hedge Knight 2: The Sworn Sword #1 (Marvel, mini)
    Sequel to 2003's The Hedge Knight adaptation.
  • Jungle Book, Marvel Illustrated (Marvel, TPB)
    Not sure how it's collected, but it's a 64-page book collected from Marvel Fanfare #8-11.
  • Moby Dick, Barron's Graphic Classics (Barrons Eduacational Series, Inc., Graphic Novel)
    I'm not sure how they fit the story into a 48-page comic.
  • Starship Troopers: Ongoing #1 (Markosia, new ongoing)
    It'll probably be better than the movie adaptation.


  • Star Trek: Klingons: Blood Will Tell #1 (IDW)
    Written from a Klingon perspective. There's even a variant written only in Klingon (though it includes an English-language script).


  • Chucky #1 (Devil's Due, mini)
    The movies never interested me; but I guess it's all a matter of taste.


  • G.I. Joe Special Missions: Brazil (Devil's Due, One-Shot)
    Now you know...
  • Xombie #1 (Devil's Due, mini)
    This is different - it's based on an on-line cartoon (Xombie).


  • Warhammer: Forge of War #1 (Boom! Studios)
    Based on the tabletop miniature wargame.


  • Frank Frazetta's Death Dealer #1 (Image, mini)
    Based on the painting by Frazetta.

And in the "not worth the paper it's printed on" category, does a line of gimmicky, evil teddy bear toys need it's own comic (Teddy Scares, Volume 1, Ape Entertainment)?

Have I missed anything that you're planning on picking up?


There Goes Joss Whedon...

I don't really write this as a movie rumors site - heaven knows there's enough other ones out there.

But this news really disappoints me, so I thought I'd post it here.

Joss Whedon is no longer writing the script for the Wonder Woman movie.

Let's have a moment of silence, then we can all continue with our day.

Thanks to Girl-Wonder.org.


El Laberinto del Hellboy

Just a note about a non-comic related movie. Guillermo del Toro's (Blade II, Hellboy) most recent film, Pan's Labyrinth (or El Laberinto del Fauna, in the original Spanish) is a fascinating piece of art. The movie is completely in Spanish, which is why I was surprised, among the Spanish names: Ariadna Gil, Ivana Baquero, Maribel Verdú, Sergi López...one stands out as decidedly not Spanish.

Doug Jones.

Jones, of course, has worked with del Toro before. He played Abe Sapien in the Hellboy movie (but not his voice); but did voice the character in the animated film. Note, that's him in the poster.

I didn't realize he's done so many comic book films: Men in Black II, Monkeybone, Mystery Men, Tank Girl, Batman Returns. Six degrees of comic book separation.