With Further Ado #022: Aquaman- The Mainstream Press Is All Wet

With Further Ado #022: Aquaman- The Mainstream Press Is All Wet

This morning I read yet another article, this one in The New York Times, that claimed the character Aquaman has always been a joke in the superhero world.   I’m not buying it. I don’t think you should either.

Maybe it was Jerry Seinfeld who started it. Maybe it was before that, I’m not really sure.

The fact of the matter was that Aquaman was a survivor.  When all the DC (National) heroes fell by the wayside after World War II, only the big three (Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman), along with Green Arrow and Aquaman soldiered on.  After all, some hero had to keep the the oceans safe from octopus thieves and the like.

Ooops – I guess I just made fun of Aquaman too. But when I was a kid, I never would have.

For me Aquaman burst onto the Saturday morning cartoon scene as part of the Superman-Aquaman Hour of Adventure.  And what an adventure it was!   Aquaman, and Aqualad protected the undersea domed city of Atlantis, although they never seemed to spend any time there. They kicked butt against underwater foes in six-minute increments (the cartoons didn’t waste any time) under the stentorian narration of Ted Knight.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #022: Aquaman- The Mainstream Press Is All Wet”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #019: Into the Fishmanverse

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #019: Into the Fishmanverse

Note: This is a SPOILER-FREE column that celebrates Spider-Man: Intro the Spider-Verse

This past weekend I took my son (in conjunction with my brother-from-another-mother taking his son who is my son’s bff… you dig?) to see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It was, to sum up succinctly, all the things. It was a visual spectacle. It was deeply diverse in the on-screen cast. It was kinetic in its action sequences. It was heavy on emotional growth. It was a nearly perfect example of what a comic book film could truly be.

As comic book films have grown from niche to the mainstream, my fear has been a dulling of the medium in the macro. Look only to the house of Mouse and Marvel’s 4 phase plan that started with plucky films like Iron Man and period-pieces like Captain America: The First Avenger, all leading to the beautifully bloated Avengers: Infinity War — which itself relies on the eighteen feeder films before it. And with Spider-Man specifically… the Spider-Verse would be (to a degree) the fourth version of the brand in less than 16 years.

But my fears scattered like Thanos-born ashes mere seconds after the glitchy-twitchy introduction of Spider-Verse’s mix-n-match animated style. Brilliantly bright colors build a stylized version of New York that took 180 animators to build. And it absolutely shows. Each of the varied Spider-People that eventually populate the film are rendered hilariously in homage to the worlds that they hail from. Be it the Manga-inspired Peni Parker being animated within the confines of an anime-palette, or Nic Cage’s turn as the monochromatic Spider-Man Noir… there’s a serendipitous presentation here that boasts to the millennial set that style is only surface-deep. And that plays heavily into the story.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #019: Into the Fishmanverse”

Beat JENeration #014: The Greatest Showman Reimagined

Beat JENeration #014: The Greatest Showman Reimagined

The world would be a better place if we would all move our lives’ plot points along by spontaneously breaking out into song and dance. And I think the swelling popularity of musicals in the last five or so years is pushing us in the right direction.

While one must give credit to Hamilton for the recent cross-over popularity in musical theatre, it’s hard for me to gauge actually how much musicals have really has penetrated the general population. You see, in my world, musical theatre has always been a constant. My day job is in the performing arts, I have two high school triple-threats living in my home, and I was raised by two Broadway-loving New Yorkers. Though that really means nothing because in the grand scheme of things the Annie Original Broadway Cast album came out when I was at a very impressionable elementary school age and THAT alone sealed my fate.  Continue reading “Beat JENeration #014: The Greatest Showman Reimagined”

Working Title #005: My Own Private Film Fest

Working Title #005: My Own Private Film Fest

It’s starting to get chilly outside which makes it a good time to stay indoors, get cozy, and watch movies. Sometimes – usually by accident – I find I’ve created my own personal mini movie festival around a theme or a certain actor or genre. I have a Christmas mini festival and Mary is putting together a Halloween one.

I did it recently around a specific time and place; Britain just before or early in the Second World War. All the films were, in one way or another, historical movies. Some characters are repeated in more than one film although in different interpretations and, of course, the events overlap but without being repetitive. I wanted all four films to be of recent manufacture; time lends some perspective. However, we also have to remember that we as viewers know how the overall story turns out. When you’re a participant in the middle of it, you don’t, and that causes some anxiety. For example, we — at this time — don’t know how the story of the American adventure with the Trump Presidency is going to turn out and that is causing some anxiety.  Continue reading “Working Title #005: My Own Private Film Fest”

With Further Ado #010: Don’t Belittle Others; “Be-Big” Them

With Further Ado #010: Don’t Belittle Others; “Be-Big” Them

A planned trip to the drive-in sparked an idea for one of these columns.  A few weeks ago, one of the summer superhero movies, Ant-Man and Wasp, was playing at the local drive-in theater. This was an astonishing fact to me.  Longtime Marvel fans know that Ant-Man was never very popular.

The “small hero” had been done so many times before- in everything from Gulliver’s Travels (when he’s amongst the giants in the land of Brobdingnab) to The Incredible Shrinking Man to TV”s Land of the Giants.  And in comics, other diminutive heroes like Doll Man, Doll Girl and the Atom were always fighting fearsome giant threats. Such as… the neighbor’s house cat or toys that came to life.

When I was in fourth grade, my class published a student newspaper and used the proceeds to buy cool stuff.  After we splurged on posters and kickballs, there was just a little bit left over. My teacher, Mrs. Shearer, turned to me and asked if I’d buy some comics for the class with the small amount of leftover change.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #010: Don’t Belittle Others; “Be-Big” Them”

Brainiac On Banjo #013: This Joke’s On Us

Brainiac On Banjo #013: This Joke’s On Us

Perhaps the most often-asked question by superhero movie fans is “Why do most of the DC movies suck?”

The “most” part is about the one truly great DCU movie made during the past decade, Wonder Woman. Thus, every time I reference the DCU movies I’m excluding Wonder Woman. Oh, and the Lego Batman Movie, which, in my opinion, is the best Batman movie ever.

These movies have been very disappointing for DC fans. After all, Marvel Studios keeps on knocking them out and knocking them out of the park. My enthusiasm for their upcoming Captain Marvel movie is quite strong. My enthusiasm for DC’s upcoming Aquaman movie is hidden behind a humongous growth in my cynicism gland.

Don’t get me wrong. Every time Warner Bros. is about to release a new DC movie (and, for the record, I am not referring to their direct-to-home video features) I hope for the best. And, with a few significant exceptions I am almost always disappointed. For example (WARNING: NAME-DROPPING ALERT!), at the World Premiere of Suicide Squad I sat between John Ostrander and Jim Lee. John created the version of the Squad that was seen on the screen, is a Pop Culture Squad columnist, and remains my oldest living friend. Jim is among the very best artists around. He was elevated to the position of DC’s co-publisher and chief operating officer. I’m a big fan of his – at one point much earlier in his career, DC’s e-i-c Dick Giordano and I (at the time, First Comics’ e-i-c) were discussing the idea of a Batman / Jon Sable crossover written by Mike Grell and drawn by Jim Lee. That project remains very, very high on my lengthy “I’m still pissed that these projects never happened” list.

At the end of the Squad flick, Jim asked me what I thought. My response: “I liked it a lot, compared with Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice.” Talk about damning with faint praise. I mentioned several scenes I really liked – and still do. I enjoyed about half of the movie, maybe a bit more. But, jeez louise, I’d still put nearly all of the Marvel Studios movies ahead of it, were I destined to be washed-up on that fabled desert island that somehow has electricity.  Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #013: This Joke’s On Us”

Beat JENeration #008:  Five Tennistastic Movies

Beat JENeration #008: Five Tennistastic Movies

Since everyone still seems to be talking about the U.S. Open, I’m wondering if I can get away with writing about tennis this week. Whaddya think?

Though just between us, after Roger Federer and Marin Cilic fell off the bracket, I was already over the U.S. Open and thinking about the Davis Cup Semis.

And by the way, if you think you care about tennis at all, shut up and watch the Davis Cup this weekend. 

FRANCE v SPAIN  on indoor hard-court. (I think Spain might win, but I really want to see France take this one because…)

CROATIA v USA on outdoor clay. (…Croatia is going to maintain its unbeaten Davis Cup win record against the US and once they get to the Finals I know they will do what the Croatian team couldn’t in the World Cup…)

Sorry. I am sure not a single one of you wanted to read that, but at least I’m not waxing on about Serena’s meltdown, nor Fed’s new ugly Uniqlo court wear. Though I cannot stop myself from saying that Bethanie Mattek-Sands isn’t getting the attention she deserves for her mixed doubles victory…

Again, sorry. It’s very hard to stop myself, even though I realize you probably want to read about tennis as much as I want to read about football. Except if it’s Friday Night Lights. I figure if I can embrace a show about the sport I hate most in this world, then there must be a way I can rally my readership into fictional scripted tennis entertainment.

Five best Tennistainment movies…..go!  Continue reading “Beat JENeration #008: Five Tennistastic Movies”

Working Title #001: Outrage for Outrageousness Sake

Working Title #001: Outrage for Outrageousness Sake

Intro: I’m the new kid around here and, at my age, it’s nice to a new kid anywhere. I’ve been a writer, primarily in comics, for some 30 odd years, some years odder than others. I used to do a weekly column elsewhere and the good people here at Pop Culture Squad has invited me to their sandbox to play in. I tend to go where my interests lead me so you may never know where I’ll head. If it’s any consolation, I don’t always know either. Let’s see where I went today.  Continue reading “Working Title #001: Outrage for Outrageousness Sake”

Beat JENeration #006: Neil Simon

Beat JENeration #006: Neil Simon

Being raised in Southern California by New Yorkers used to make me feel like a bit of an immigrant at times. While both my parents had been third-generation Americans themselves, there was still a lingering feeling of Old World from their Italian & Croatian roots for sure, but what seemed to make our family feel like “the other” had more to do with their East Coastness. The accents, the food, the urban neurosis, the constant bi-polar alternating of hyperbolic praise and grumbling pessimism, and the way they were just loud — OMG, at a time in life where you just want to blend in and disappear it was embarrassing. I cringe to admit it now, but I was jealous of all the vanilla families that looked like the ones on TV.   Continue reading “Beat JENeration #006: Neil Simon”

Beat JENeration #005: John Corbett is the Ultimate Hot Dad

Beat JENeration #005: John Corbett is the Ultimate Hot Dad

With a horrifically long queue already in place, I hate when Netflix tries to shove their shows at me. I’m also a little embarrassed by the suggestions. It’s one thing to watch the crap I watch, but it’s another thing to have the algorithm so ruthlessly regurgitate my viewing patterns back at me. But this week, they nailed it with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Based on the 2014 YA novel by Janny Han, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is your basic PG-rated High School rom com, or essentially a non-Disney Disney Channel Original Movie. And that is fine because, I love a good DCOM off-brand or not.  We can blame this on my exceptional parenting skills, but really it was more of a perk than a burden for me to watch these gems over and over with my kids.  They are the modern ABC Afterschool Specials without too heavy-handed a message. They are like Hallmark movies with younger, better looking actors. Don’t judge me!  Continue reading “Beat JENeration #005: John Corbett is the Ultimate Hot Dad”