Here’s a riddle for you. Q: How can a TV show which started out so bad turn out so good? A: When yours truly, DJ David B. steps in to straighten it out! Although I’m not one to brag, I take full credit for the recent turnaround of the TV series Gotham. It’s all thanks to the scathing editorial I wrote a couple weeks back (check the archives if you don’t believe me). I wrote about the excessive violence of the first few episodes and the powers that be at Warner Brothers/DC Comics listened. You’re welcome.
Which brings me to The Riddler. Last night’s episode featured one Edward Nygma getting on everyone’s nerves. Now I didn’t come down with the last raindrop. I can see that Mr. E. Nygma is sooner or later going to become The Riddler, and get on Batman’s nerves. (In Gotham, that’s a career path.)
The Riddler was a minor villain in the comic books, became world famous on the 1966 Batman TV show, and continued to be a major player in the Batman movies. It’s only fitting that this giggling enigma – oh, I just got that! – play a big part in the Gotham show.
Q: When is an action figure not an action figure? A: When it’s still in the package.
To celebrate The Riddler’s increasingly active role, we present our usual: some cool pictures, a comic book cover, and a record. Don’t thank us, it’s what we do.
Click the link below and see if you can solve the riddle before the Boy Wonder.
All I can say is, “Thank you, DC Comics.” Thanks for cleaning up Gotham.
After last Tuesday’s editorial about excessive, graphic violence in Gotham, the new Fox TV series about Batman before he was Batman, this week’s episode was very toned down. Sure there was violence, but it happened off-screen or otherwise out of our view. Yes, the Penguin’s face was bleeding but there was no visible blood-spurting, no open chest wounds, no on-camera bludgeonings. An entire hour-long episode without a single eye-gouging!
A dapper, non-bleeding Penguin.
It’s very gratifying to think that a little (albeit well-written) editorial by yours truly, could have an effect on a big organization like Time-Warner and DC Comics. Our opinions are heard. The little guy does matter. The squeaky wheel does get greased. Good triumphs over evil. It’s like a story out of a comic book!
Hey, maybe I should get on a soapbox more often! Now that I know it works I may have a few suggestions for The Flash and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
But let me make this clear to the powers that be at DC: I’m not looking for any credit. You don’t have to thank me for straightening out your show. I’m not asking for a fat check or a producer’s credit. Just the personal satisfaction that I made a difference is reward enough. (Although cash is always welcomed.)
To celebrate this David B.-versus-Goliath victory I’m sharing a classic cover gallery featuring the Penguin. You’ll see the Penguin using his trick umbrella and refraining from any brutal violence – just the way I like him.
Click the link below and listen to yet another vintage record about the Penguin.
The stated purpose of this blog is to celebrate the nexus of comics and records, that wonderful place where two of my hobbies intersect. Songs relating to comic characters. How fun is that? But today I’m getting on my soapbox to editorialize a bit. (Don’t worry, there’s a record coming up later.)
I’ve been watching Gotham, the new Fox TV series that makes The Dark Night look like a day at the beach. It’s not just violent, it’s the kind of ultraviolence that got A Clockwork Orange an X rating. And it’s on television. At 8:00 pm. Gotham is the kind of show you’d expect to see on HBO after 11pm. But it airs during “the family hour” on a broadcast network. It’s easy to believe that Fox would sink so low, but I’m surprised at DC Comics and Warner Brothers. They should know better.
The Penguin with the least amount of blood on his face I could find.
Anyone in the comic book business knows that when violence goes too far, people get riled up and put a stop to it. Ever hear of Fredric Wertham? In Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent, the doctor pointed out to parents how violent comics had become and it just about killed the entire comic book industry. You can’t blame Freddy. Comics were horrifically violent at that time. Although they’re just “lines on paper,” those lines crossed the line, so to speak. Arguably, movies and TV shows have the potential to be worse since they show actual people being hurt, not just cartoon drawings.
One of Wertham’s pet peeves was the injury to the eye motif. Here’s an example:
Given how horrible that image is, why did the creators of Gotham do THE EXACT SAME THING on this week’s episode? In fact, they went even further, actually showing people being killed by having a spike shoved into their eyeballs. Is this really necessary?
If this level of explicit, disgusting violence continues on Gotham, are we headed for another crackdown? Will a new Fredric Wertham arise to try to curtail injury to the eye, being burned alive, and other graphic horrors? Will I be that person?
Classic injury to the eye motif
Also available on a totebag
It’s too much for me. I think it’s unnecessary to show so much bloodletting and torture in order to tell a compelling story. You people should be ashamed. I’m talking to you, DC Comics! If you’re putting your name on this show you’re asking for the same thing that happened in the 1950’s. Think about it.
Click the link below and listen to a more innocent, non-violent Penguin.
You don’t have to claw my eyes out or hit me over the head with a bat (bat, get it?) to tell me that Gotham takes TV violence to a new level. All that brutality has overshadowed the exciting return of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a thoroughly action-packed show that seems tame in comparison. Although there’s plenty of fighting in S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s done in a comic-booky way, where no blood is spurted and no one gets permanently killed (I’m talking to you, Lucy Lawless).
The season starts off with Agent Coulson as director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury is off somewhere relaxing. I’m glad to see Coulson get a promotion, but it’s sad to see Nick go. Nick Fury was a sergeant in World War Eye-Eye (in the comics, anyway) and he really earned the job as director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Once you’ve run a group like the Howling Commandos, you deserve to head up a spy agency. I’ve never heard Agent Coulson howl, not even once. You’d think Phil would give us a “Wah-hooo!” once in a while. Oh well. Nick is out and Phil is in, and that’s the way it is (for now). Still, I miss good ol’ Sgt. Fury. I hope he’s on an island somewhere under an umbrella sipping a drink with an umbrella in it. If you see him, give him my regards.
Which is my sneaky segue to this song called “Sergeant Fury.” See what I did there?
Original art by Jack Kirby, himself a World War II vet.
Click the link below and relive your memories of World War Two!
When I wrote about Gotham last week (just look in the archives if you missed it) I hadn’t actually seen it yet. I knew it was going to be dark. But I didn’t know just how dark. Holy brutality, Batman! This is damn dark.
In the first episode we see The Penguin without his trademark monocle and minus his gimmicked umbrella. Instead he manically beats a guy nearly to death with a baseball bat. Blood spurts, hilarity ensues. The usual ultraviolence, me droogs.
On the second episode (SPOILER ALERT) we’re treated to even more spurting blood and a close-up of a recent eye-gouging victim. This ain’t your father’s Batmobile!
It seems as if the producers of Gotham are trying to distance themselves as far as possible from the squeaky-clean 1966 Batman TV series, where the most graphic thing you saw was a POW!, BAM! or occasional WHAM! on the screen. A sock on the jaw, maybe, but no one was ever decapitated.
It shows how violent our culture is and inured to it we’ve become. It doesn’t strike me as an improvement, even if it’s more realistic. Somehow realism isn’t what I liked about Batman. Exactly the opposite, actually.
In the coming weeks we’ll see even more brutal acts of violence. SPOILER ALERT! Next episode, the young and future Catwoman claws a guy’s brains out. The next week The Penguin eats someone’s liver with a nice Chianti and some fava beans. And make sure you stay tuned to see The Riddler riddle a body with bullets. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.
For now, we’ll turn back the clock to a simpler more innocent time to hear some of Sun Ra’s (Al Ghul) best work in this sweet song about The Penguin.
Click the link below and remember Gotham before dark.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave (a very real possibility for some of our loyal readers) you know that Gotham made its debut last night on the so-called Fox Network. It’s so exciting to see all the elements that made Batman who he is, slowly but surely falling into place. Holy set-up, Batman!
Basically, Gotham sets the stage for the next batch of Batman movies. I get the feeling that the show was inspired at least in part by the success of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, which likewise ties in with the Marvel film franchise. Holy synergy!
I don’t know about you, but I like my Batman the way I like my coffee… dark and gritty. On this front, Gotham delivers in spades. It’s so dark, you can hardly see what’s going on! Anybody have a flashlight?
Now usually when we shine the I.T.C.H. spotlight on Batman, we focus on the brightly lit and extra colorful 1966 TV show. But this time we’re going dark – very dark – to bring you this haunting, eerie song about Oswald Cobblepot. You may know him better by his villain name: The Penguin!
This is the Penguin when he was young, before he got so fat.
Click the link below and enter the dark world of Gotham!
Now that we’re just days away from the season premier of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the excitement is building fast, let’s take a look at (and a listen to) a little Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos. Not only was Nick Fury an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. but he is (was?) the commander of the whole secret organization! But this didn’t happen over night. Nick worked his way up through the ranks, starting as a mere howling commando back in World War Two. (Hey, you’d be howling too if you were still on active duty 69 years after the war ended.) In fact, Colonel Fury looks younger now than he did back then! (Shh… maybe he’s an LMD.) But time paradoxes aside, it’s good to see Nick’s spy agency on weekly TV.
Now if you were paying attention during Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and didn’t bolt for the exits as soon as the credits started to roll, you got a glimpse of that man you love to hate, Baron Strucker! Yep, that Nazi turned Hydra bad guy managed to sneak into the movie at the last moment. He’s up to no good, I’ll wager.
The Baron, aka Wolfgang von Strucker, dates way back to SFAHHC #5, and continued to make Fury’s life miserable for several decades/issues. Not to mention being a thorn in the side of Captain Savage. Before long, he’ll turn up on the big screen or the small screen (spoiler!) I have no doubt.
So while you enjoy this cover gallery of the Baron you can hum along with the haunting strains of the Howling Commandos theme music.
Back in the day (I’m old enough now that I use that expression daily) comic books were considered cheap, low-brow entertainment for morons and young children. When you see big-budget blockbusters like The Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy it’s easy to forget that comics weren’t always fodder for hit movies. At best, comics were fodder for rip-off record albums designed to separate well-intentioned parents from their hard-earned cash. (“I’ll get this cheap record for Timmy. He’s just a dumb kid, he won’t know the difference.”) Especially after the Batman craze hit in 1966, there were more ways to cheat children than you can shake a Batarang at. Enter The Capes & Masks, a group so phony they make Milli Vanilli seem sincere. Holy hoax, Batman! The Capes & Masks didn’t actually exist, nor did 11 songs about comic book heroes. But did that stop them? No! This was the Sixties and comics were the latest fad to be cashed in upon (or the latest bandwagon to be boarded, if you prefer that metaphor). Some savvy record producer found a bunch of tapes lying on the floor, changed the titles of the tracks to sound vaguely comic-booky, and released an entire LP of disingenuous and fraudulent comics music on an unsuspecting public. And they sold like hotcakes. (They probably would have been better with butter and maple syrup.)
If all of this sounds familiar it’s because I’ve told this same story several times including here, here, here, here, here and here. Hey, there are 11 tracks on the album, so I’ll tell it a few more times before I’m through. As promised, here’s another song from Comic Book heroes.
Click the link below and feel ripped off once again!
As your resident self-proclaimed expert on all things comical and musical, I know a lot about the nexus of records and comics. But even I, D.J. David B., don’t know everything. Shocking, isn’t it? I will pause now while you catch your collective breath and compose yourself. Go ahead, take a minute.
But it’s true. There are still a few musical mysteries that I have yet to solve. Today, one of my favorites.
As I’ve said on this blog before, my favorite comic strip ever is Pogo, by the absurdly talented Walt Kelly. I’ve collected and shared some of the records Kelly made himself (yes, he sang). But here’s one that I don’t quite get.
Made by Percy Faith, whose biggest hit was “Theme from A Summer Place” (literally the theme song from a film called “A Summer Place”) this was the flip side of that inescapable MOR smash. It’s called “Go Go Pogo” and it’s about Pogo Possum, star of the aforementioned comics.
Or is it?
Percy Faith in 1949.
Maybe “Go Go Pogo” is about the fad of pogo sticks. Or maybe ol’ Perce (I call him “Perce”) just needed a B side and decided to title this catchy composition with syrupy strings “Go-Go-Po-Go” simply because it rhymed. Perhaps it was just the first thing that popped into his head.
So here is your challenge, my loyal I.T.C.H. readers: Close your eyes and listen to the record. What do you see? Does the melody call to mind the adventures of Pogo Possum and Albert the alligator in the Okefenokee Swamp? Or do you picture the neighborhood kids hopping on pogo sticks and screaming until you want to stick your head out the window and yell, “Hey you kids! Get out of my driveway!”? Or maybe it conjures abstract images of swirling nothingness orbiting the very eyebones of your noggin.
For now, I’m going to presume that the song was inspired by Walt Kelly’s inspiring comic strip and share some cool related images. Enjoy!
Click to enlarge this gorgeous piece of Kelly art.
Magnificent wallpaper by famed cartoonist Jim Engel. Click to enlarge.
I haven’t seen the new movie, but they tell me it’s good. Personally, I’m more interested in the classic original which was not called “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” (or as I preferred to call it “Sherman & Peabody”) but rather “Peabody’s Improbable History.” Using great writing, excellent voice talent and crummy animation, these short cartoons told the amusing stories of a smart dog and his pet boy as they travel through time. Who knew in 1959 that one day these filler segments from The Bullwinkle Show would be beautifully animated in a lavish feature-length film? And who could have predicted that kids who were 10 years old in 1959 would grow up to be 64-year-old grandparents and bring their grandchildren to see a movie based on fairly minor characters they enjoyed (somewhat) in their youth? I’m betting DreamWorks did!
So let’s climb into our WABAC machine, turn back time, and listen to the classic theme song from the original series. Ah… memories. Sing along! You know the words!