Tag Archives: batman

Grumpy Fanboy’s tribute to Casey Kasem (1932-2014)

16 Jun

American icon Casey Kasem passed away yesterday from complications after suffering from Lewy Body Dementia, Parkinson’s disease and sepsis. Beloved father and radio & television personality, Kasem was in many ways the voice of my childhood. From the American Top 40 radio show to voicing cartoon characters like Shaggy from Scooby Doo and Robin the Boy Wonder, his voice was a constant companion when I was growing up. He will be sorely missed.

Somewhat fitting, Kasem died on Father’s Day. I won’t dwell on the legal battle over his care in the months leading up to his death. (His son, Mike, is a former colleague and someone I consider a friend.) Instead, this being a blog dedicated to comic book pop culture, I am going to celebrate his memory through his body of work and the many cartoon characters Casey Kasem brought to life. There are too many to count so if you can think of any others, please let me know.

Thanks for the memories, Casey Kasem. From the generation that grew up listening to your wonderful voice, may we always remember to keep reaching for the stars.

Casey Kasem as Robin the Boy Wonder from the Batman and Robin cartoons (1968) through to the Super Friends series.

Zoinks! Casey Kasem as Shaggy from the Scooby Doo series.

Casey Kasem as Mark from Battle of the Planets, the American-voiced version of Gatchaman.

Casey Kasem as Cliffjumper from the Transformers cartoon.

Fly vs Frog from Sesame Street.

 

The Best Batman Ever

11 Jun

As the third and final installment of the Christopher Nolan-helmed Batman films, The Dark Knight Rises, is released the week of 19 July, already fans are speculating about the future of Batman in film and what direction the franchise may take.

The Batman character is among a handful of “super-heroes” that have transcended from popular culture into myth, joining the ranks of characters now forever linked to human culture. These mythic figures include the likes of Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Robin Hood, King Arthur and Hercules. It’s no surprise that since the Batman’s debut in Detective Comics #27 in 1939, he has been interpreted by hundreds of writers, artists and filmmakers.

For my favorite versions the Batman in any medium, click here for the story published in Yahoo!

Top 5 Most Improved Superhero Franchises

5 May

Can you imagine David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury? Yes, it really happened. Be happy Samuel L. Jackson replaced him for the Marvel movie francises.

Super hero franchises don’t always get it right the first time. A number of comic book franchises today flopped miserably in their first forays into television and film. Through some trial and error (Captain America with a plastic shield? A Batman suit with nipples?) , various comic-book movies and television shows have gotten their acts together and delivered incarnations that audiences have finally come to embrace.

See the full list published in Yahoo!

 

Here are clips from the Captain America TV movies:

 

Here’s a clip from that awful Justice League live action pilot:

 

And finally, here’s “The Hoff” as Nick Fury:

Why the next Batman movie should be in CG animation

5 Nov

The time has come to make a full-CGI / motion capture Batman movie. To make it work, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill have to be in it. Batman: Arkham City proves that it would be all kinds of awesome. Who’s with me?

With the Christopher Nolan series of Batman movies coming to an end, the opportunity will arise again to reboot the Bat franchise on film. But does it really have to be live action?

My vote is for an CGI / Motion-capture Batman movie in the tradition of films like Beowulf and Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within. But to make this work, the film must feature the voice talents of two men who have brought these classic characters to life for almost two decades: Kevin Conroy as the Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker.

What? A “cartoon” Batman feature film? Here’s why the idea isn’t all that crazy:

First, Batman the Animated Series is regarded by many Batman fans as the best incarnation of the Dark Knight in any medium. Conroy and Hamill have been fan favorites ever since they first starred in the series in 1992. Since then, they have been brought back in a number of animation projects featuring Batman and the Joker, including Superman, Justice League, Batman Beyond and two direct-to-DVD feature films. They are also both marvelous actors, as this scene from one of the animated series shows.

Most recently Conroy and Hamill reprised their roles in the hit video games Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City. The latter has already sold over 4.6 million units since its release on 18 October. (That’s about US$230 million in gross revenue after only two weeks, which puts it in the same league as any Hollywood blockbuster film.)

Finally, technology is now able to give us the dramatic performances we need to make this an excellent film. Both actors will not only be able to voice but to fully perform these characters. With CG, whether or not the actors resemble the characters in real life is no longer an issue, as the following clip from the making of Beowulf shows.

We’ve all seen how full CG characters — from Yoda to Gollum — can command emotional performances onscreen. I am very excited at the prospect of both Conroy and Hamill fully performing these iconic characters. Plus, the action should be spectacular. Take a look at this trailer for Arkham City.

If you would like to see this film made, please Like this page on Facebook and help spread the word!

New Batman: Arkham City trailer!

16 Mar

The trailer for the sequel to my favorite super-hero game of all time, Batman: Arkham Asylum, is out! This time the action leaves the confines of Arkham Island and now plays out in a city-sized map. At least, that’s what the folks behind Batman: Arkham City promise!

Not only was Arkham Asylum one of the best stealth / action games of all time, it was one of the best Batman incarnations of any medium. This Batman may be considered an extension of the one we saw in Batman The Animated Series and Justice League cartoons, complete with voice talents of Kevin Conroy as the Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker.

Can’t wait to get my hands on this sequel!

Batman: Arkham City will be released on 18 October 2011.

10 Future Scenarios Worse than a Sarah Palin Presidency

5 Nov

Does the prospect of Sarah Palin in the White House scare you? Comic books show us it could be much, much worse.

Following gains by the Republicans in the US House of Representatives during the recent mid-term elections, there is renewed speculation that Sarah Palin will emerge as the GOP’s presidential candidate in 2012. While there are many who are elated by this prospect, the possibility of a Palin presidency is causing concern both from within the Democratic Party and the GOP itself.

Relax, people! Let’s put this possible future into perspective. Those of us who have read comic books all our lives are no strangers to disastrous futures. Here’s a list of my favorite future scenarios … all of which are far worse than having a self-described “Mama Grizzly” as leader of the world’s most powerful nation:

10. The Kamandi future

Sometime in the future, most of the human race is wiped out in a calamity known only as the “Great Disaster”. Intelligent animals (who now walk upright like humans) become the dominant life forms, including gorilla, tiger, lion, rat and dog men. Humans regress into a more primitive state and are used mainly as slave labor by their animal masters.

This is the world of Kamandi, the last boy on Earth, first published in 1972 (DC Comics).

9. The Judge Dredd future


Following nuclear holocaust, mankind is forced to live in over-crowded “Mega-Cities” because what’s left of the US is an irradiated wasteland called the “Cursed Earth”. Crime is rampant and the cities are policed only by “Street Judges” (like the hero) who have the power to arrest, sentence and even execute those they deem criminals on the spot.

Judge Dredd first appeared in the British science fiction anthology 2000 AD in 1977.

8. Days of Future Past

A group of mutants assassinate a US Senator, prompting the government to activate the Sentinels, deadly giant robots, who then decide that the only way to eradicate the mutant threat is to take over the government. Thousands of mutants, super-powered humans and ordinary humans alike are slaughtered in the process. The survivors are herded into concentration camps.

We saw a glimpse of this future in “Days of Future Past”, X-Men #141-142, published in 1981 (Marvel Comics).

7. The Hellboy Apocalypse 

The elder gods known as the Ogdru Jahad invade the earth from their hellish dimension and sweep over the planet, killing everyone. Hellboy fulfills his role as the Anung Un Rama (the Beast of the Apocalypse), ushering in the End of the World.

Hellboy’s role in the Apocalypse was first foretold (though not actually played out) in the first miniseries Hellboy: Seed of Destruction in 1994 (Dark Horse Comics). We also got a glimpse of these scenes in the first Hellboy movie.

6. The Dark Knight Returns future

The Cold War never ends, criminal gangs run wild in the cities and the US government is a fascist state with Ronald Reagan as President. All super-hero activity has been declared illegal, except for a certain blue and red-clad Kryptonian who operates in secret on the orders of the government.

This future was seen through the eyes of an elderly Bruce Wayne, forced out of retirement in The Dark Knight Returns, published in 1986 (DC Comics).

5. The Kingdom Come future

Super-human activity reaches its apex. Battles between meta-humans spill out daily onto the streets of America’s cities, without heed to property damage or civilian casualties. The conflict erupts into full civil war, prompting the United Nations to order a nuclear bomb dropped on American soil.

These events were chronicled in the miniseries Kingdom Come, published in 1996 (DC Comics).

4. The Y: The Last Man future

A mysterious plague wipes out every living mammal possessing a Y chromosome — including embryos, fertilized eggs, and even sperm. The only survivors are a male New York resident and his pet monkey. The survivors (all women) must deal with what remains of the world, including humanity’s impending extinction.

This future was depicted in Y: The Last Man, published in 2002 (Vertigo / DC Comics).

3. The OMAC future


Sometime in the future, a catastrophe puts an end to civilization as we know it. Cities lie in ruin and zombie-like monsters roam the subways. The world is policed by the Global Peace Agency and its single super-human operative, code name: One Man Army Corps (OMAC).

OMAC: One Man Army Corps was first published in 1974 (DC Comics).

2. A Better World

Lex Luthor is elected President of the United States and then assassinated by none other than Superman. The Justice League then decides to take over the United States government, running the country as a police state. They then change their name to the Justice Lords.

This alternate future was shown in the two-part “A Better World” from the Justice League cartoon TV series in 2003.

1. The Old Man Logan future

In the not-too-distant future, the United States is taken over and divided between a number of super-villains, namely Doctor Doom, Magneto, the Red Skull and the Abomination. (The latter’s territory is then seized by the Hulk.) Most of the population, including the super-heroes, is dead and most of the US is now a barren wasteland.

We saw this future through the eyes of an elderly Logan (aka Wolverine) in the miniseries Wolverine: Old Man Logan, published in 2008 (Marvel Comics).


Grumpy Fanboy’s DC Comics Secret Identities Quiz

3 Sep

DC Comics recently revealed that, following Bruce Wayne’s return from the dead, Dick Grayson will hang on to the cape & cowl. That means that two characters will get to call themselves the Batman. (The last time this happened was during the aftermath of the Knightfall story arc, when Wayne forcibly reclaimed the Batman mantle from Jean-Paul Valley by beating him to a pulp. This time, it seems the sharing of the Batman name will be on decidedly friendlier terms.)

DC Comics has had a long career of characters sharing hero names. Over the years, names like Green Lantern, the Flash, Green Arrow, Doctor Mid-Nite, Doctor Fate, Wildcat and Starman have been passed down to a younger generation of heroes (usually family members or former sidekicks).

Think you know a lot about the secret identities of DC Comics characters? Take this quiz and find out.

Grumpy Fanboy’s Comic Book & SciFi TV Shows We’d Like To See

24 Aug

Over the years, we’ve seen old television shows remade into modern live action feature films. A small handful are excellent (Serenity) some are pretty good (JJ Abrams’ Star Trek) and most are just too awful for words (GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen). We’ve of course seen a lot of comic books made into movies, with their own share of the good (Iron Man, The Dark Knight), the bad (Spider-Man 3, Ghost Rider) and the festering piles of turd (Elektra, Catwoman).

Here are some movie- and comic book-inspired ideas that would make excellent live action television shows:

Robotech

BSG with robots and giant aliens

Am I the only one who notices the similarity between Battlestar Galactica and the Macross saga? A lone aircraft carrier, hotshot pilots, civilians to protect and aliens bent on humanity’s destruction? Unlike the Robotech anime series, which was written for kids, this one would convey adult themes and delve deeper into the motivations behind the Zentraedi invasion.

Why it would work: The kids who were hooked on the original Robotech are now in the highly lucrative 30s and 40s demographic. Live action, a compelling and complex storyline combined with fighter jets that transform into robots. Come on! Who wouldn’t want to see that?

Why it wouldn’t happen: Japanese anime has never been successfully adapted into live action in the West. Back-rolling this project would take guts and a whole lot of vision to get it right.

The Corps

Trials of a rookie Green Lantern

Unlike the upcoming movie, this series would focus on Kyle Rayner, a teenager spotted by the Guardians to have the one-in-a-billion natural ability to operate a Green Lantern power ring. Think Greatest American Hero, wherein most episodes we see Kyle clumsily but courageously  learning the art of ring-slinging from retired Green Lantern Alan Scott. Occasionally, Kyle gets drafted into a military operation of cosmic proportions to fight alongside Green Lantern Corps veterans like Tomar-Re, Katma Tui and Kilowog.

Why it would work: The concept of a rookie drafted into a Star Trek / Starfleet Command-like military organization would be fascinating and extremely entertaining. With Smallville wrapping up, DC needs a new show on TV. (“Blue Beetle” you say? Groan.)

Why it wouldn’t happen: Quite likely that they will decide the Green Lantern movie is the only live action GL they want. It could confuse audiences.

The Defenders

Friends meets The Tick

Loosely based on the treatment of the Defenders in The Ultimates, this series focuses not on Marvel’s icons but its very deep bench of second- and third-stringer heroes. The line-up would include lesser-known characters such as Doctor Strange, Nighthawk, Hellcat, Valkyrie, the Son of Satan and other struggling-to-be-respected super-heroes. Naturally, its treatment would be lighter, often humorous, spending as much time dealing with inter-personal relationships and their secret identities as battling super villains. But importantly, the dialogue would reveal (or hint, depending on rights issues) that the show takes place in the same Marvel universe as the movies, without necessarily having any of those major characters appear.

Why it would work: Hellooo …  Marvel is hot! There’s a lot of demand between the blockbuster films for more live action super-hero content. Here’s a clever – and less expensive – way to deliver.

Why it wouldn’t happen: Too many people in Hollywood believe big budgets and special effects are the only reason people want to see comic book characters on the screen.

Gotham

Film Noir-style Batman

Most depictions of the Batman focus on him as the gadget-ridden, hi-tech super-hero. Even Dark Knight, as good as it was, missed the important word in that phrase: Detective. Sadly, the Adam West Batman still sets the tone for the character in many ways. The “Kapows!” may be gone but it’s still all about Batmobiles, Bat Jets and Bat ultra-sonar devices. I’d like to see a low tech Batman — no fancy car or special weapons — relying on his wits, resourcefulness and detective skills to solve the impossible or bizarre cases the police can’t. This was how the Batman was portrayed in the 1970s, as told by the likes of Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams and Marshall Rogers. Or, for younger readers, think CSI with a little X-Files mixed in.

Why it would work: There’s a market for intelligent crime dramas. A number of Batman fan films have demonstrated how a low-budget Batman could work well. The novel treatment could win a whole new audience.

Why it wouldn’t happen: There’s too much riding on the Batman franchise. Any Hollywood project with Batman in it has to be a big production. And based on the last two films, the formula is paying off too well.

Falcon

The adventures of young Han & Chewie

Han Solo as a smuggler / pirate /scoundrel set it in the years between Episode III and Episode IV. There’s no shortage of material! How Han gets drummed out of the Imperial Academy and goes underground. How Chewbacca comes to owe Han a “life debt”. How Han wins the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian in a game of cards. How Han drops his cargo and crosses Jabba the Hutt. Bring in a charismatic actor who can pull off a young Harrison Ford, a rotating cast of colorful characters and, of course, the Falcon herself.

Why it would work: Are you kidding me? Joss Whedon saw the potential and ended up doing Firefly instead! It would be an instant classic.

Why it wouldn’t happen: Creatively, George Lucas seems focused on the Skywalkers. The current Clone Wars animated series pretty much revolves around Anakin, as did the recent prequel trilogy. An expanded Star Wars universe revolving around Han just doesn’t seem to be on his radar.

Top 10 Actors Who Played Comic Book Characters

19 Aug

Comic book themes in television and film are a multi-billion dollar industry. Last year, The Dark Knight became one of the highest grossing films in history and one of only six movies to earn more than a billion dollars worldwide. Today, film fans and comic fanboys alike wait breathlessly for the upcoming Thor, Captain America and Avengers films.

It took decades before the public widely accepted these characters’ transition from the page to the big screen. Here are 10 actors whose contributions were invaluable in making comic books a part of mainstream Hollywood.

10. Adam West

Best known as: Batman / Bruce Wayne from the Batman television series (1966-1968)

West was one of the pioneers in bringing the super-hero to life, albeit, with a more tongue-in-cheek flavor. While the Batman series can be credited (or blamed) for placing super-heroes in the realm of campy one-liners and gimmicks, it also brought them out of kids’ bedrooms and into our living rooms.

9. Hugh Jackman

Best known as: Wolverine / Logan from X-Men (2000)

X-Men led the pack of Hollywood blockbusters that dominated the last decade and its success was largely thanks to Jackman’s ground-breaking performance. Comic book fanboys are a tough crowd and Wolverine is one of their most revered icons. You can’t deny their acceptance of Jackman as Logan was no mean feat.

8. Mickey Rourke

Best known as: Marv from Sin City (2005)

The success of Sin City set a darker, grittier tone for comic book-based movies. Rourke’s was one of the rare performances when you completely forget you’re watching an actor and believe instead that Marv has come to life.

7. Julie Newmar

Best known as: Catwoman from the Batman television series (1966-1967)

Catwoman demonstrated how on-screen comic book characters can deliver raw sex appeal. Although two other actresses (Lee Meriwether and Eartha Kitt) shared the role of Catwoman in the Batman series, no one else defined modern “sexy” or filled a catsuit quite like Newmar.

6. Kevin Conroy

Best known as: the voice of Batman / Bruce Wayne from the Batman animated series (1992-1995)

The animated Batman is often held as the best portrayal of the dark knight detective in any medium. Conroy continues to personify Batman from the landmark original animated series through to the Superman (1996-2000), Justice League (2001-2006) and a number of animated films and video games that followed. (I continue to wonder how much Christopher Nolan’s films would improve if they dubbed over Christian Bale’s contrived raspy voice with Conroy’s.) Kevin Conroy is the voice of the Batman.

5. Bruce Lee

Best known as: Kato from the Green Hornet television series (1966)

Lee fired the imaginations of a generation by demonstrating how good a super-hero inspired action sequence could look onscreen. Quick fists and high kicks versus gun-toting goons never looked so damned good. Lee’s smoldering performance as Kato, both masked and unmasked, set him on the path to international superstardom. (Editor’s Note: a purist might argue that the Green Hornet was originally a radio serial, not a comic book, character. Yeah, yeah, smart ass! Lee plays an important enough role for me to bend the rules.)

4. Marlon Brando

Best known as: Jor-El from Superman (1978)

Having an actor of the caliber of Marlon Brando on Superman brought instant credibility to the genre. Brando’s performance was so powerful and unforgettable that they couldn’t make Superman Returns (2006) nearly 30 years later without somehow bringing him back.

3. Lynda Carter

Best known as: Wonder Woman / Diana Prince from the Wonder Woman television series (1975)

No one else filled a costume (or my boyhood dreams) like Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman. Hers remains one of the rare instances where it’s difficult to separate the character from the actor who played her. There is yet to be a modern Wonder Woman TV or film production, though there have been a number of attempts. Could it be because no one else could ever hope to equal Carter’s performance?

2. Robert Downey, Jr.

Best known as: Iron Man / Tony Stark from Iron Man (2008)

Downey delivered one of the performances most beloved by comic book fans and non-fans alike by making the role of Tony Stark his own. Iron Man redefined comic book film-making and cemented Marvel’s dominance of the genre. Yes, Robert. You are Iron Man.

1. Christopher Reeve

Best known as: Superman / Clark Kent from Superman (1978)

No one else made us believe so convincingly that a man could fly. ‘Nuff said.

New Trailer from DC Universe Online

18 Aug

The folks at DC Universe online unveiled today its latest trailer for DC Universe Online. Unlike the six-minute trailer shown at Comic Con 2010, which was a fully rendered cinematic, this latest trailer appears to consist entirely of in-game footage. And it looks great!