Sunday, March 30, 2014

I'm Batman... well... not really. But I could be...

Batman after a night of doing shots with Penguin and Two-Face
I had got permission to take my Saturday Graphic Novel class to see the actual costume Michael Keaton wore in Tim Burton's 1989 blockbuster film BATMAN. Mind you, this was in the middle of Saturday's big public opening of the Higgins Armory Collection. Thankfully I had a small class, so getting permission to have them view the costume was a little easier than if I had the full 18 students.

This was really a unique experience for me. I've always been a fan of Batman. Not nearly the Batman aficionado my buddy Andy Fish is. But I had always liked the character. Whether you call him the Caped Crusader, Masked Manhunter or the ever popular Dark Knight. Batman has always been my favorite costumed hero.

And I enjoyed Tim Burton's movie when it first came out. So, seeing the costume relatively up close and personal was kind of like fulfilling a childhood wish.

13 or 14 year old Bret would have been quite pleased with 38 year old Bret.

The costume itself is a little rough shape. They did a great job trying to restore it. But heavy rubber, latex and leather do not do very well under hot lights with an actor sweating underneath.

This costume was also fashioned to fit Michael Keatons. Which left me with this thought. Theoretically I could be Batman. Judging by the size of the costume, Keaton wasn't really that much bigger than me.

Still, how Tim Burton got away with it in 1989 is really a testimony of Michael Keaton as an actor. Fans weren't terribly happy and neither was creator Bob Kane who envisioned his Dark Knight/Caped Crusader being a Cary Grant type actor. But both groups were won over by Keaton's performance.

Now that taller more physically built actors like Christian Bale have take the role. I don't think an actor under 5'10" would be accepted in the role anymore.

Nevertheless, it was a neat to see the costume.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Next Installment of Star Wars... or No Galaxy for Old Men?

Mark Hamill actually made a damn good villain in last seasons finale of Criminal Minds
 I'll be honest. A combination of the "expanded universe" and George Lucas has kind of ruined Star Wars for me over the years. Loved the Thrawn Trilogy when it first came out. Not so much anything else. Lucas's endless tinkering with the original trilogy as well as how terrible the Prequels turned out due to some of the decisions he made just soured me.

I bought the original versions of episodes four through six on DVD several years back. And honestly. I don't give a flying truck if they're copied from a laserdisc version, THOSE are the ones I choose to watch.

However, it looks like GL will have very little involvement with the next set of Star Wars films. I have not seen JJ Abrams and company's two Star Trek films. So, I have no opinion on that subject.

But with names like Gary Oldman and Benedict Cumberbatch potentially linked to the project as well as a production teams whose names are not George or Lucas, I'm willing to give the next installment of Star Wars a chance.

There! I said it!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Thoughts on Daylight Savings

I'm not sure which is worse. Daylight savings or the fact after 173 years of technological advancements we still use a subterranean rodent to predict weather patterns... although it was pretty damn accurate this year. But in any case, get rid of Daylight Savings already! I never feel "rested" when we gain an hour and I feel worse when we eventually lose that hour. Which we never really gained or lost in the first place. Just have one hour all year round no matter how pitch black it gets outside. You can keep your darn Groundhog. But I'm sick of having to reset my clock every year! End it!!

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Power of Shazam by Jerry Ordway

Although, I never kept up with the ongoing series, I still have a soft spot for Jerry Ordway's initial POWER OF SHAZAM graphic novel. I feel like its been the only Captain Marvel book that's pretty much gotten it right since CC Beck originally worked with the character in the 1940's and 1950s.

The biggest draw of the book is Ordway's art. He manages to capture much of the character designs of the Big Red Cheese while maintaining a slightly realistic style. Also the look and feel of the backdrop of Fawcett City seems very inspired by the retro style of Batman: The Animated Series. Highly popular at the time this book was published in 1994.

The story isn't bad either. Some of the lines are a bit clunky. But the overall story itself isn't bad.

I suppose Ordway had to make the story a bit more "edgier" for a modern audience (although I hate using the word "edgier") but it doesn't come off as badly as some. I mean even in the original series, Billy Batson is homeless. A ten year old kid living on the street isn't exactly cheery, folks.

But what Ordway does right is despite this he doesn't turn Billy Batson into a moody jerk. Although, he would have every right to be. But that's not the point of the character.

The other thing I like is the fact that Ordway establishes in this continuity, which has sadly long since been retconned with the New 52, is the fact that Billy turns into an adult rather than him and Captain Marvel being two different entities.

I think that helps with explaining Marvel's "Schucks! Gee whiz!" sort of personality in a modern world where everything has to be "dark". He's still basically a kid inside. So he has that sunny outlook.

I had mentioned this in a previous blog how Captain Marvel visualizes a kids dream of being the superhero and not the sidekick. As a ten year old, you can be Robin but you can't be Batman. But you CAN be Captain Marvel. A kid who has the ability to turn into an adult superhero but still get to go back to being a kid after he's done saving the world.

I also liked the origin of Batson's parents being archaeologiest murdered by Black Adam who was the henchman for the man who financed their dig in Egypt: Dr. Sivana. Yep!! The Worlds Maddest Scientist is reintroduced in this book. Though this time he's sort of this multi-millionaire cross between Lex Luthor and Ross Perot.

Out of everything, it's Ordway's artwork that really shines in this tale. His interpretations of all the characters are great! He maintains the look CC Beck created for Marvel, Sivana and Black Adam. It should be mentioned I thought Black Adam kind of reminded me of a cross between Shemp Howard and a young Norman Fell...

...okay! I'll give you a second to let that sink in.

But THE POWER OF SHAZAM is really a great book and honestly should be a "How to" guide to any writer or artist looking to adapt Captain Marvel. Or at least adapt him right. The only other adaptation I think got Marvel right was the movie serials from the 1940's starring Tom Tyler.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Spring Thoughts and Progress on the Ukulele

Spring is a few weeks a way and I decided to shave the old beard off a month or so early. For those who don't follow my blog I tend to start growing a beard around late September and early October and then shave everything off around Springtime.

Mostly I just get bored and need the change.

I'll be glad to see Old Man Winter in the rearview mirror. The last couple months of Winter have been the pits with the constant snow. It'll be nice to see warmer weather and everything in bloom once again.

I've also been continuing to learn the ukulele the past couple of months. I've come along pretty good since I last blogged about it. I've been learning a few songs. Just recently I added two more to songs I've learned. One of which is HE PLAYED HIS UKULELE AS THE SHIP WENT DOWN at the request of my good friend Devon Kurtz when we all went out to the Flying Rhino for my Birthday.

The other song goes along with my affection for Groucho Marx and the movies of the Marx Brothers. I found the chords for LYDIA THE TATTOOED LADY. A particular favorite of mine.

The chords themself are actually fairly easy. And my wife has even told me that what I'm playing even sounds like music now.

That's pretty much all the fun and excitement around here. Now I'm just hoping to get through the next snowstorm and hope nicer weather is on the other side of it.