More than once on this blog we have discussed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Gotham, but there’s another comic book TV series that we haven’t even mentioned! That changes right now: The Flash! Yes, The Flash, the fastest man alive who once again has a weekly television show. Did you ever think you’d see the day when super-heroes were the source material for so many movies and TV shows? I’m so busy watching TV I scarcely have time to read comics.
The Flash ran on treadmills before they were popular.
The Flash is particularly interesting in the context of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Gotham in that it isn’t dark, gritty or, ugh, realistic. In fact, it’s refreshingly comic-booky in its approach. It’s the kind of show where the villain stands there spouting dialogue like “It’s the end of the line, Scarlet Speedster, you’ve met your match in Captain Cold” with a straight face. Kudos to the actors who do a wonderful job of not cracking up (although I dare them to not burst out laughing when Captain Boomerang arrives on the scene.)
Barry Allen trying hard not to laugh
The show takes place in an alternate universe where police chemists are about 16 years old and all the actors look like they belong on Dawson’s Creek. Boys have crushes on girls and girls have crushes on boys, and nobody gets stabbed in the eye. (See Gotham.)
The cast of The Flash
To celebrate the Scarlet Speedster’s return to the small screen, let’s enjoy this vintage opening theme.
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.
Sadly this British weekly comics isn’t an adaptation of Carla Lane’s situation comedy of the same name*. This Solo was a masala of strips based on movies and TV shows of the era that’s kind of oddball even for a British weekly comic. It’s probably best known for the strips and other material based on the Mysterons, the bad guys from the Gerry Anderson show Captain Scarlet..
First up there’s Project Sword a strip based on a toy line created by Gerry Anderson that for some reason never got a TV series of its. own.
There was quite a bit of Disney material, like this true-fact page taken from one of their nature documentaries.
The internet tells me The Adventures of the Seaspray was an Australian kids series and I have no reason to doubt it.
Here’s a chance to see some glorious Dan Spiegel artwork in black and white, as in this adaptation of That Darn Cat.
1967 seems a bit late for there to be a Sgt. Bilko comic but I assume the repeats were currently running on British television.
Here’s that Mysterons strip I was talking about.
Here’s an intriguing original about a time traveller in the old west.
As well as a not bad Man From U.N.C.L.E. strip.
The real oddity here though just might be a one pager based on the short-lived American sitcom Run, Buddy, Run which had the hilarious premise of a regular guy constantly on the run from the mob.
And here’s another couple of pages of wonderful Dan Spiegel black and white art from an adaptation of the Disney movie Bullwhip Griffin.
*Having seen Good Neighbors a.k.a. The Good Life at a vulnerable age I have had a livelong Felicity Kendal addition. So I was much pleased that while studying in London I was able to see the first season of Solo. I assumed I would never get a chance to see the second. But thanks to the magic of illegal downloads I was finally able to see it about a year ago. And, as so often is with the highly anticipated, season two is more than a bit of a disappointment. Mostly because the initial premise, a young woman struggling to find her place in the world after being cheated on by her boyfriend, lost most of it’s playful tone. Like Lane’s other notable situation comedy, Butterflies it suffers from a central character who’s vague dissatisfaction with a male dominated middle class existence. But like it her unhappiness is cloaked in feminist rhetoric but what she really needs (in my opinion) is therapy and/or antidepressants.
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.
Today’s installment concerns yet another Captain Atom. In a previous installment I revealed there had been a little know and lesser seen Captain Atom back in the 50′s who had appeared in a short-lived series of comics in a less than the standard format. Well there was an even lesser known (in America anyway) one from Australia written and drawn by Arthur Mather for Atlas Publications in the late 40′s. My experience with Australian comics is less than I would like, but I have noticed they seem to like their costumed adventurers to be of the regular guy two-fisted variety. But Captain Atom is a proper superhero with actual atom powers. And the art is, well, distinctive. Me, I like it, but you don’t often see an artist who’s clearly inspired by both Dick Sprang and Milton Caniff.
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.
There I was, wasting time on Tumblr when I came across this inexplicable image. It took a while, but I finally figured out I was looking at the cover of Sir Clacky Wack and Miss Sunbeam in “The Zany Scientist”, a 1957 one shot from Magazine Enterprises. Being a decent American I knew of Little Miss Sunbeam, the mascot of Sunbeam bread and was even vaguely aware she had her own comic book series. And with a minimum amount of research (my favorite kind) I discovered the character was created by illustrator Ellen Segner for the Quality Bakers of America in 1941. But ”Sir Clacky Wack”? Apparently in public appearances Miss Sunshine had a “sidekick and chaperone” in the form of a clown played by actor Ed Alberian who also stood in for the clowns Clarabell and Bozo. I have no idea why he got top billing in this comic.
Or why he’s entirely absent from the later Little Miss Sunshine comics. Sadly Sir Clacky Wack and Miss Sunbeam in “The Zany Scientist” is currently unavailable online. But all four issues of the later series are and in these Miss Sunshine is just regular little kid with a mom and dad and some standard kid tropes friends. As well as humorous backups featuring such bread related characters as Toothy Snyder the Delivery Boy and Gus the Grocer. She had pretty standard little kid adventures and although it seemed with every issue there was more adventure oriented material. And in her final one she fought, sort of, both Wild West bad men and pirates. As far as the Grand Comic Book Database knows these stories were written and drawn by ? but as far as I’m concerned they did a bang-up job on a particularly inspiring property.
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!
I don’t have time for a proper installment of this thing so instead of making an effort and being entirely absent I’ll just amuse myself by posting a prose story featuring my favorite robot adventurer/educator The Iron Teacher.
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.