Tag Archives: dc comics

Comics! On television!

via DC Comics' Facebook page
via DC Comics’ Facebook page

Fifty years from now, when we’re all flying around in our rocket cars and taking an elevator up to Mars, historians will look back on 2014 as a banner year for seeing comic books in other media besides comic books.

It’s especially been a banner year for DC Comics on the smallish screen. For the fall season, it’s got four shows on the air: Arrow, The Flash, Constantine, and Gotham. From what I hear, they’re doing gangbusters. While Marvel has a stranglehold on the multiplex, it does have one show on TV: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., with several more in development. I guess I should mention that 100-pound zombie in the room, The Walking Dead, but I’m not a zombie kind of guy. Sorry.

As much as I would love to watch every single one of these shows, most of them air when my kids are heading off to the realm of Dream. Thankfully, since we live in THE FUTURE, I can watch them later online with limited commercial interruption (usually the same ads over and over).

When the fall season began, I knew I had to see The Flash, with Gotham lurking in the shadows for a tie. I was a big fan of Batman and the Flash’s earlier TV incarnations. One was a bit silly, the other had a mix of comedy, drama and action. All these years later, we would get another look at these characters.

The Flash would take on the Barry Allen version with some revisions to the origin story. It’s serious, but there’s a sense of fun among the characters. It’s not all doom and gloom. With Gotham, this would be more Batman: Year Minus One, giving the origins of some of Batman’s rogues gallery as well as the Gotham Police. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to catch any episodes of Gotham. I guess I’ll wait for the DVDs.

I drop in occasionally on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., mainly because “it all fits” but I haven’t seen a Marvel movie since Iron Man. Some of it is good, but I feel like I’m missing something. I saw a few episodes of Arrow last season and liked it once I figured out the scenes on the island were flashbacks and not scenes from the future. Nice, moody stuff borrowing a lot from Batman’s world. Sadly, I’ve fallen behind this season, the one where Ra’s al Ghul is primed for an appearance.

Then there’s John Constantine.

I’m not much of a horror fan, so I have stayed away from Constantine’s DC/Vertigo comic book adventures. But whenever he did pop up in comics I was reading at the time (mostly by some bloke named Neil Gaiman), it was always entertaining. Thankfully, I never did see Keanu Reeves’ cinematic turn as the character.

Out of all the shows DC was bringing out, this was the one I was waffling on seeing. Did I want to have nightmares every day and wonder if there’s some hellspawn masquerading as a lamppost?

The hell with it, I thought. I watched the pilot, and it was great. It had just enough horror to not give me fits at night, and actor Matt Ryan fits Constantine’s character like a well-worn glove.

I, for one, am glad to see the comics world on TV. It helps that the special effects have grown to the point of being able to re-create someone running at the speed of light or people turning into demons. But the biggest thing is that the stories don’t play down on the material. And above all, they’ve made me ask, “What happens next?”

Now I just have to carve out time to find out what does happen next, and pray that they don’t get cancelled.


The fastest post alive

When the Super Powers toy line appeared in the mid-1980s, my 8-year-old self naturally wanted every single figure representing the DC Universe. But, thanks to the law of Not Having Any Toy In Stock Except Generic Characters, that wasn’t possible. But I did snatch who I thought were the best: Batman. Green Lantern. The Flash. (My brother got Superman)

I’ve mentioned my love of Batman elsewhere, but with Green Lantern and the Flash, they tickled the science fictiony portion of my brain. The former was part of an intergalactic space police force who could form anything with his power ring, the latter was a man who could run really fast.

OK, that description doesn’t quite do the Flash justice. I soon learned there was more to the Fastest Man Alive. Right around the late ’80s, early ’90s, in fact.

Just like when Batman commanded the big screen in 1989, I got hooked on the Flash after learning CBS was bringing the character to the small screen. But as I picked up the comics, I learned Barry Allen wasn’t the Flash, it was Wally West. SPOILERS: Barry had died during the massive Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Wally went from Kid Flash to the Flash.

Secret Origins Annual No. 2
Secret Origins Annual No. 2

Someone had given me a copy of Secret Origins Annual No. 2, which featured stories centered on Wally and Barry. Barry’s tale, which was drawn by Carmine Infantino, the man who helped launched the Silver Age Flash, was especially cool to me. It showed various points in Barry’s career, including his fateful clash with the Anti-Monitor. He stopped the deadly anti-matter gun by going faster than possible. But he didn’t die. He traveled back in time and became the lightning bolt that struck him in the first place. Wow.

Also around this time, I was able to pick a couple of comic book subscriptions. I picked Batman and Flash. With the latter, I came in right when Vandal Savage killed the Flash. WHAT? It even had it ON THE COVER. Well crap, I thought. Thankfully, in issue 50, Wally wasn’t dead. Whew.

So now I was entranced by the television adventures of Barry Allen (played by John Wesley Shipp), as well as the comic book adventures of Wally West, thanks to the efforts of writers like William Messner-Loebs and Mark Waid and artists like Greg LaRocque and Mike Weiringo.

The TV show had that neo-retro feel that the Tim Burton Batman flick had. I especially liked it when Mark Hamill guest starred as the Trickster, which may have led to him becoming the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series. In any case, it was deliciously evil. I tried to tape as many episodes as I could, but I missed a few (it probably didn’t help the show kept changing time slots). I even got the All-New Flash TV Special comic, which included two comics, some behind the scenes stuff, and an episode guide.

Sadly, the show didn’t make it past the first season. I was heartbroken, but at least I still had the comics, which showed Wally coming into his own as the Flash, instead of running behind Barry’s shadow.

I walked away from comics before Waid left and people like Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns took over the writing reins. Around 2008, I learned of the unthinkable: Barry Allen was coming back. After being dead for some 25 years, which has to be a record of some kind. So I bought Final Crisis to see how it was going to play out.

Then I read that Johns was going to do a miniseries called The Flash: Rebirth, which would officially bring Barry back into the DCU. I did get goosebumps seeing the double-page spread of all the Flashes.

So now he was back. Yay, I guess? I mean, I’m all for having as many Flashes running around as possible.

Along came the New 52, which kind of reset DC’s continuity to give a fresh start. Barry Allen was the Flash, but where was Wally? Enjoying some vacation time in Hawaii? I did read the first issue and liked what Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul were doing. Due to budget restraints, I didn’t keep up with the title.

Thanks to the Showcase Presents black-and-white reprint line, I got to read the rather long tale, “The Trial of the Flash,” which led directly into Crisis on Infinite Earths, which I also finally was able to experience.

On the TV side of things, I had heard Barry Allen would be making an appearance in Arrow. I may have caught glimpses of it, but with two young children running around and yelling, it can be hard to concentrate. Still, I thought, cool, I wonder if this will lead to him becoming the Flash.

Then the CW announced it was coming out with a new series on the Flash.


Holy Speed Force, Barry! This looks promising. Now if only time could go fast enough to get to the fall. (taps watch a few times)

I think what still attracts me to the world of the Scarlet Speedster is that it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Both Barry and Wally loved being heroes. Their Rogue’s Gallery was just as cool as Batman’s (the Mirror Master! the Weather Wizard! Reverse Flash! Abra Kadabra! Gorilla Grodd!). They could travel through time. Some of those Silver Age stories were plain wacky (The Flash has a giant head!).

Really, how can you go wrong with all of that? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll crack open The Greatest Flash Stories Ever Told again.

Happy birthday, Batman!

via DCComics.com

Seventy-five years ago, a man dressed as a bat appeared in Detective Comics #27. About thirty-four years ago, that same Dark Knight Detective stuck a Batarang into my brain and left it there to grow.

As an impressionable 4- to 6-year-old in those lazy, crazy, hazy days of the early 1980s, I stumbled upon reruns of the Batman ’66 TV show and was mesmerized by the BAM!s and POW!s and OOMPH!s. When the Super Powers cartoon/toy line was introduced in the mid-’80s, you can bet Batman (and his Batmobile!) had a spot in the home roster (I had the Flash and Green Lantern; my brother had Superman). I don’t remember reading much of the comics of the day, but that would soon change.

Cut to the summer of 1989, a red-letter year in the history of my life. That was the year Tim Burton’s Batman graced us with its presence on the big screen. In the weeks before the premiere, a local TV station played a teaser commercial at the exact same time every weekday. I ate every second. Batman! The Joker!

On the opening week, my grandfather took me to the mall movie theater in Jacksonville, and for the next two hours, I was transported to Gotham City and was flabbergasted at Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson’s performances. Heck, I bought my first Prince album because of Batman. Now that’s power. (Who’s gonna stop 200 balloons? Nobody!)

Now that DC Comics had my blood, they sent messages to my brain, “YOU MUST GO TO YOUR LOCAL COMIC BOOK STORE AND BUY FURTHER ADVENTURES OF BATMAN.” It was a command I couldn’t refuse.

So I picked up Batman and Detective Comics and devoured them. I came in the middle of Grant Morrison and Klaus Janson’s “Gothic” story in Legends of the Dark Knight, was so enthralled that I had to go back and get the first few issues. I scooped up The Greatest Batman (and Joker) Stories Ever Told. I read just about every Elseworlds story featuring Batman.

I learned about some epic graphic novel called The Dark Knight Returns, written and drawn by some guy called Frank Miller. Part of my young teenaged brain was scared to crack open this tome, but I dove in anyway. Wow. I even read Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke. That may have been a mistake to read at that time, but oh well.

I had the good fortune (or not, depending on your point of view) of jumping into the comic book universe when Bane entered the picture of the epic “Knightfall” storyline and took Bruce Wayne out of the picture.

Thanks to the geniuses of Paul Dini et. al., Batman: The Animated Series became my new favorite cartoon. I loved how they kept the darkness of the movies but drew things slightly cartoony.

When the idea of buying 20 Batbooks to follow the storyline grew tiresome, I stepped away from Batman’s world for a few years, dipping my toe into a few stories here and there (I returned for Final Crisis and the beginning of Batman Incorporated). I haven’t delved into the New 52 version of Bats, but I do like the idea of non-continuity digital comics (the aptly named Legends of the Dark Knight). And then, there was Christopher Nolan’s brilliant Batman movie trilogy.

I’m not sure what drew me to Batman. Was it the cool costume? Was it the tragic backstory? Was it the colorful rogue’s gallery? It was probably a mixture of all of that. As I grew older, I probably was drawn more to the stories themselves, written by such luminaries as Denny O’Neil, Marv Wolfman, Alan Grant, Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, and others that escape me at the moment, and drawn by such greats as Norm Breyfogle, Jim Aparo, Marshall Rogers, Neal Adams, Kelley Jones, George Perez, and others that also escape me.

Sure, Superman could fly and bounce bullets off his chest, the Flash could run faster than light, and Green Lantern could make a giant green fist from his ring. Batman was just a rich dude who solved crimes with his mind and scared the crap out of villains. What more could you want?

Many happy returns of the day, Batman. I’m sure you’ll still be striking fear in the hearts of superstitious, cowardly criminals for another 75.