Category: TV

Brainiac On Banjo #060: Crisis? Make Room! Make Room!

Brainiac On Banjo #060: Crisis? Make Room! Make Room!

Too many people going underground / Too many reaching for a piece of cake / Too many people pulled and pushed around / Too many waiting for that lucky break – Paul McCartney, “Too Many People”

OK, superhero television fans. Take your gloves and socks off, there’s math on this test.

Which project has more superheroes – Avengers: Endgame or next month’s Crisis on Infinite Earths?

Sorry; I’m being a prick. That was a trick question. We won’t know for a bit because the Crisis announcements are still barreling down the pike. It appears that some or maybe all the cast members of the Titans program on the DC Universe streamer will be deployed in the big caped clusterfuck. And, hey, go figure, the second season of Doom Patrol starts filming this week. It’s alleged they will be doing a fly-by as well. Yow! I wonder if Stargirl will be getting some love here.

Hell, this might be the first major DC event in decades that doesn’t include the Joker – or at least a Joker; it’s so hard tell them apart. Is it time for Mark Hamill to match his face with his voice? I’m not excluding the possibility. Maybe Harley will drop by. One of them, at least. Maybe all of them, who knows?

And will John Diggle become the next Green Lantern? That show goes up on the new HBO streamer next year or so. Or maybe John is the Green Lantern of Earth-90. This was teased before, when The Flash of that Earth, played (of course) by John Wesley Shipp, said to Diggle “Hello, John. You’re not wearing your ring… Things must be different here.”

Crisis On Infinite Earths – The TV Event certainly is shaping up to be quite a mammoth production… but, of course, not all “events” are worth following. We shall see, and I strongly suspect a whole lot of us will see. I also suspect this will be an all-or-nothing thing: it will either be very good and characters will not be tripping over one another (think Avengers: Endgame), or it will be one 270 minute mess with a bunch of long, mournful death scenes. Having actually met “people,” I strongly believe some will love it, some will hate it, and those who worked on it will simply be glad it’s over.

If Crisis With Infinite Costumes is as successful as DC-WB-CW wants it to be, history tells us there will be many more such “Crisises” to come. In addition to resurrecting one or two of the corpses from this one, who could they add to surprise us next time around? Space Ghost? Jonny Quest? Norville Rogers? That’s technically possible, you know. Keith Giffen could work that one out with ease.

Or maybe the Big Bad will be Mister Mxyzptlk. If he’s not too busy writing the thing.

The author would like to thank noted writer/artist Harry Harrison for the title to this here column. And maybe Edward G. Robinson as well.

Brainiac On Banjo #059: Four-Color Audio!

Brainiac On Banjo #059: Four-Color Audio!

In certain circles, I am known as a radio drama fanatic… and, of course, in certain pentagrams as well. Not just the old stuff whose echoes faded as television became a thing, but the new efforts as well. Even more so.

Full-cast audio means exactly what it’s labelled. Gather up a bunch of perfectly-selected actors, give them a well-written script, an awesome array of appropriate sound effects, a digital recording facility with more computing power than the Mars Rover, a director to beat the band and a producer whose pen ever runs out of ink, and together they tell fantastic stories into the microphones.

The listener provides the visuals. As such, the crew is ripping your sense of wonder out of your very soul and encouraging you to paint all those pictures within the comfort of your very own brainpan. As such, this is a perfect medium in which to grow heroic fantasy. Here, all the work percolates in your head and you become such a vital part of the production team that, really, you should ask for royalties. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #059: Four-Color Audio!”

With Further Ado #065: It’s 1986 All Over Again

With Further Ado #065: It’s 1986 All Over Again

As I recall, 1986 was a great year. I was in Boston at that time and had just started a career in advertising. Boston was a glorious place; I enjoyed every minute of my time there. I especially enjoyed the town’s many comic shops – including Million Year Picnic, New England Comics and Newbury Comics- they were all in Harvard Square (if you can believe that) near where I lived.

It was good to have so many shops nearby because it was also a great year for comics. But in some ways, 1986 seems to echo through today with the resounding and triumphant evolution of Geek Culture.

I thought a lot about that as I was reading the big Sunday NYTimes article(s) on the new HBO Watchmen series.  The show looks interesting, but I couldn’t help but think how wonderfully odd it is, even today, to see Dave Gibbons’ panels in a major newspaper.

Watchmen debuted in 1986. We tend to forget, but right when we were all hooked, the twelve issue comic series started shipping late. It was a drag, but so worth the wait. And of course, those intricate Alan Moore stories could be read and re-read, and new meaning could be found each time while we were awaiting the conclusion.

One of the most satisfying parts of Watchmen used to be that it was finite. The comic series was a cohesive and comprehensive story. Like Casablanca, you kinda wanted to know what happened to those characters afterwards, but it was all so perfect that there was a “let’s just let it be” attitude. 

Buuuut… we’ve had a lot of new Watchmen adventures over the years. The series has been reprinted in many formats many times. (And that’s a whole ‘nuther story right there.)  And the Zach Snyder movie brought Watchmen to the big screen in 2009.

There have been new adventures in the comics too. I just rescued a few random Before Watchmen issues from the bargain box in Oswego’s A Comic Shop on Saturday. I was that guy who went into the store five minutes before their official closing (hey, I happened to be in the area). I wanted to be respectful to the owner (more likely than not it had been a long day for her) so I quickly grabbed those comics. Plus, my wife was waiting in the car.


DC Comics is currently publishing The Doomsday Clock series by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. It’s a gorgeous-looking book that weaves the Watchmen characters into the modern DC mythology.  Frank’s artwork is stellar, and kudo’s to Johns for his characterizations of Don McGregor’s Nathaniel Dusk and the new heroes/villains, Marionette and Mime.

More 1986 in 2019

  • Just last month, Art Spiegelman charmed a full house at the Rockwell Museum event hosted in Corning, NY.  Spiegelman, still best known for his ground-breaking work on 1986’s MAUS, was fascinating and intriguing. It was hard to even think that all years had passed since 1986, except for the fact that Spiegelman has produced such an impressive body of work since then.
    • And as an aside, boy does that guy know his old comics. We had a ball at the after party talking about artists like Bob Powell and Dick Briefer!
  • The Mike Gold-edited Green Arrow series, debuting in 1987, actually started with a graphic novel called Green Arrow: The Long Bow Hunters. Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance’s adventures then continued in the first of many long-running Green Arrow monthly series. One can argue that without that series, there would be no CW superhero shows like Arrow or The Flash.
  • I tend not to keep up with all the CW shows, but the many ads/coming attractions I’ve seen teasing the crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline again reinforces the 1986-ish-iness of modern pop culture.
  • And one could argue that new Batwoman TV show owes quite a bit to the 1986 thriller by Frank Miller, The Dark Knight Returns.  This gritty reimaging of the Batman legend is a nice adaptation of those luscious Greg Rucka/J.H. Williams comics, but it does owe quite a bit to Miller’s Dark Knight series. I guess so many comics today do.
  • Of course, some ‘ground-breaking’ series from that time aren’t remembered as vividly.  When Howard Chaykin reimagined The Shadow in his 1986 mini-series, it was deliciously subversive. Even to a longtime fan of the traditional Shadow adventures, like me, it was an urgent must-read.  For the world-at-large of today, it somehow just doesn’t quite enjoy the long-running traction of Watchmen or MAUS.  But at that time running with the big dogs.

Comic fans, by their nature, are always glancing over their shoulders to the past, while paradoxically always looking to the future – anxious to find out “what’s next”. We didn’t know 1986 would be a big deal then. We certainly didn’t think it would still be a big deal in so many ways.

Brainiac On Banjo #057: Create A Better Universe

Brainiac On Banjo #057: Create A Better Universe

You might have missed it – there’s a lot going on these days that sucks all the oxygen out of every room – but we celebrated National Coming Out Day on October 11th. You might have missed this as well: this was the 31st anniversary of the event.

That last bit surprised me, but my personal relationship with the time/space continuum always has been a bit iffy. A quick run through Wiki showed me NCOD is also observed in Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. It remains slightly controversial, both within the LGBTQ communities and without. That’s because every political activity is controversial, and that’s not entirely bad. Occasionally, people of differing opinions raise some interesting and useful points. Nothing ever pops out of the brainpan fully formed.

This year, our friends at Archie Comics joined in the effort. This is not a surprise: Archie long has been platforming educational issues, and, of course, writer/artist Dan Parent – heir to the Bob Montana chair of outstanding Archie talent – is the creator of Kevin Keller, the first openly gay character in the Archie Universe. That was a big deal in 2010, and it remains a big deal today. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #057: Create A Better Universe”

With Further Ado #064: That Night Stalker, Carl Kolchak

With Further Ado #064: That Night Stalker, Carl Kolchak

I grew up in a time that was perfect for scaring ourselves silly. I was at that age where my friends enjoyed a steady diet of monster movies, and then Kolchak: The Night Stalker came along.  It wasn’t like anything we had ever seen. It took place in the here and now, unlike all those Universal monster movies. And the “hero” didn’t seem very heroic. He was kind of a…goofball.

And it was really, really scary!

Kolchak: The Night Stalker was a short-lived TV series in the early seventies, inspired by an incredibly successful made-for-TV movie. (Do you remember made-for-TV-movies?)  Each week intrepid reporter Carl Kolchak would stumble into an astounding story that inevitably involved the existence of real-life vampires, werewolves or aliens. 

Kolchak’s greatest motivation wasn’t saving people, and it certainly was not punishing bad guys. What really got under Kolchak’s skin was when authority abused power and subverted the truth. At the core it all, he was motivated to get the real story out there. He wanted to ensure that real news, as bizarre as it may be, was available for all.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #064: That Night Stalker, Carl Kolchak”

Brainiac On Banjo #053: Crisis On Infinite Heroes?

Brainiac On Banjo #053: Crisis On Infinite Heroes?

I got no time for a dozen / Six of you gotta go – Tuli Kupferberg, “My Bed Is Getting Crowded”

I enjoy the annual “Arrowverse” crossovers on the CW, where most of the DC characters who star in those sundry shows all get together to hop timelines and dimensions to fight, as Chickenman used to chirp, “crime and/or evil.” This year’s crossover certainly will be the biggest ever, and, if we’re just a bit lucky, the best.

Of course, by best I mean more fun. Coincidentally, Green Arrow, for whom the Arrowverse has been named, made his debut in DC’s More Fun Comics, but I digress. I’m not expecting Gone With The Wind here; I based upon the previous crossovers I’m expecting to have a good time.

This one is cleverly titled Crisis On Infinite Earths, borrowing the name, concept and logo design of Marv Wolfman and George Pérez’s game-changing miniseries. It was a brilliant and gutsy story that established the standard in all-inclusive event comics… even though the publisher completely pulled the rug out from under it by immediately rebooting Superman and Wonder Woman while the ink on the final issue of Crisis was still wet.

But I’m not here to continue my 34-year old rant about rebooting like monkeys on speed. I’m not going to get over it, but the comics’ DCU is not the Arrowverse. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #053: Crisis On Infinite Heroes?”

“So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man” #048: “Saturday Night Lived”

“So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man” #048: “Saturday Night Lived”

It’s the show mom and dad told me I couldn’t stay up to see until I was old enough; so of course I snuck downstairs to see it before it was allowed. It’s one of the few shows that remained appointment television when I got my first DVR. It’s a show that has remained firmly entrenched in the zeitgeist since its inception. Even when it was bad? It gave us Eddie Murphy. It’s spurned movie and TV careers for literally dozens of its long cast list.  Live from New York… It’s Saturday Night Live.

For many, whatever season(s) they caught first tend to set the bar of future expectations of quality and hilarity. For me personally, I became a fan somewhere towards the end of the ’95 season. This meant I missed Dana Carvey by a year, but got to see the end of Mike Myers, Adam Sandler and Chris Farley’s tenure. The very next season we got a fresh-faced set funny people: Will Ferrell, Darrell Hammond, Cheri Oteri, and Molly Shannon (to name a few).

While most will agree that SNL itself ebbs and flows in quality — as casts learn to play off one another, writers get into a groove, and current events offer unique opportunities to capture the zeitgeist — the show by and large has become an institution unto itself. Not unlike the brainchild of Vince McMahon (the WWE), Lorne Michael’s not ready for primetime players has grown in stature and expectation such that it may live long after it’s impossibly driven creator should ever choose to retire. And make no bones about it. I personally believe Lorne and Vince will die while still maintaining duties in their respective kingdoms. But I digress. Continue reading ““So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man” #048: “Saturday Night Lived””

Brainiac On Banjo #052: Sidekick Bastards

Brainiac On Banjo #052: Sidekick Bastards

Shortly after Hitler invaded Poland, the powers that were decided Batman needed a sidekick. Not to prop up sales – by all indications, those early issues of Detective Comics were doing fine. No, the good folks at National Comics decided the grim and gritty pointy-eared crusader with the cape needed a young sidekick, someone with whom their young readers could relate.

Maybe. Batman had been a soloist for only one year, so we really don’t know. But we do know that Batman and Robin together were exceptionally popular. Therefore, Robin begat Speedy, Bucky, Toro, Sun Girl (who clearly was a young adult), Ebony White, Captain Marvel Jr., Kid Flash, Kid Terror, Aqualad, Supergirl, Mary Marvel, Dusty, Tiger, Wing, Sandy, Speedboy … I could go on and on, but I won’t because I like you. Well, most of you. Sidekicks became a real thing, an inseparable part of the American superhero myth for at least a half-century. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #052: Sidekick Bastards”

Brainiac On Banjo #051: The Challenge of Ideas

Brainiac On Banjo #051: The Challenge of Ideas

I just checked and I’ve decided I’ve got too many friends. Let’s see who I can offend today. But, first, a couple of disclaimers.

One: For decades I have been uttering I am a first amendment absolutist. There should be no roadblocks in the world of free expression. Yes, people need to stand behind what they say and I’m not at all opposed to laws that hold people responsible for malicious defamation. But there should be no roadblocks between the thought and its delivery. That’s free expression.

Two: I am a fan of Walter Mosley’s. I would have read every novel he’s ever written but for a couple decades he’s been in a Smith-Corona destruction derby with Stephen King. Had I been editing Fantastic Four, I would have found a way to get Mosley to write it. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #051: The Challenge of Ideas”