Tag: DC Universe

Brainiac On Banjo #090: Powers Roughly Equivalent of God’s

Brainiac On Banjo #090: Powers Roughly Equivalent of God’s

Deep in the dark / I don’t need the light / There’s a ghost inside me / It all belongs to the other side / We live, we love, we lie – “The Spectre” written by Gunnar Greve, Jesper Borgen, Tommy Laverdi, Marcus Arnbekk, Anders Froen, Alan Olav Walker, and Lars Kristian Rosness, 2018

The comment expressed in our headline above was made by the fabled Jules Feiffer in his groundbreaking 1965 book The Great Comic Book Heroes. It was groundbreaking because Feiffer was the first to take the history and craft of comic books seriously — so seriously, in fact, that it was excerpted in Playboy.

The Spectre was created by Jerry Siegel, and if truth be told it’s probably my favorite of his creations — including the Big Red S. Feiffer was right: it’s a bitch to write a series where the lead isn’t really a “hero” and yet has, as Jules noted, powers roughly equivalent of God’s. And we’re not talking about the New Testament’s cosmic muffin — this is the Old Testament’s hoary thunderer, and The Spectre is his personal instrument of vengeance. Yup, the after-life might not be as sweet as you’d hoped.

I don’t know if the kids who were reading comics at the every end of 1939 were ready for that. Within two years the series was lightened up by a bumbling guardian angel called “Percival Popp, the Super Cop.” Think Frank Capra, but stupid. The Spectre became a founding member of the Justice Society, but when World War II ended he was out of the group, out of More Fun, and living off of Officer Popp’s police pension.

Still, the character made an impression and when Julie Schwartz was looking for another golden age character to revive after The Flash, Green Lantern, The Atom, and Hawkman, he chose The Spectre. That was odd, but with the arguable exception of Zatanna (or, really, her dad Zatara), The Spectre was the first character he brought back that Julie hadn’t edited during the Golden Age. Despite some decent scripts from Gardner Fox and artwork from the always amazing Murphy Anderson, it just didn’t click. The series was handed over to a relative newcomer named Neal Adams, who did some truly wonderful artwork, but it also did not find success.

But the guy still remained in the hearts of DC’s creative community. Editor Joe Orlando needed a new lead for Adventure Comics, so he brought in Michael Fleisher and Jim Aparo and let them go nuts. The Spectre took this “vengeance of God” thing to a fundamentalist level, and he would kill the bad guys with such creative cruelty that they might have made EC artist “Ghastly” Graham Ingles genuflect at his porcelain throne. It was great. And it lasted 10 issues.

Since then The Spectre has been floating around the DC Universe in all its forms, incarnations, and mistakes. Lots — and I mean lots — of A-listers handled his adventures, including my buddies John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake. They enjoyed one of the longest runs.

So it was with absolutely no surprise whatsoever that I stumbled across a DC Digital First thing called Ghosts. At first I thought that odd — thus far they hadn’t done resurrections of their mystery anthologies in their new digital line. Then I saw “Ghosts” was just another way of saying “The Spectre” and then I noted it was written by Dan Jurgens.

I really like Dan’s work, both as an artist and a writer. We worked together on Green Arrow for a long time, and instead of just leaving the series to do something new, he told me he was making a play to do Superman and, if he got it, he’d be moving on. As much as I liked Dan’s stuff — he and Mike Grell made a great team — he certainly earned the right to take a shot at the Man of Steel. I successfully fought back my overwhelming desire to mindfuck him into staying, although I did think about it. Dan did some remarkable work with the brightest of DC’s corporate jewels. Right now he’s writing Nightwing, and is damn good.

Dan, along with artists Scott Eaton and Wayne Faucher, did a fine job on the story. I don’t know if Ghosts is a one-shot or a play to resurrect The Spectre again, this time without having to resort to paper and staples. They were somewhat restrained in their story… if you compare it to the Fleisher / Aparo run. Then again, a head-on collision between two 10-car passenger trains would seem equally restrained.

DC has done a number of very entertaining stories in their almost-daily Digital First line, unburdened by a continuity that mutates as often as amoebas commit mitosis. Seeing The Spectre pop up in this format evoked a response characters rarely have when they cross his path: I was pleasantly surprised.

Brainiac On Banjo #085: Crossing The Stream

Brainiac On Banjo #085: Crossing The Stream

Star Wars! / Give me those Star Wars! / Nothing but… Star Wars / Don’t let them end — written by Nick Winters, 1977

With all the streaming at our fingertips, the entertainment business is making a lot of headlines promoting what they’re going to do once Earthlings return to mobility. But don’t get excited just yet: the only cameras operating right now are working Zoom and not Studio Binder. When Keith Richards self-quarantines, everyone should self-quarantine.

Next week’s launch of HBO Max has turned up the heat. Clearly, studios are concerned about competing for subscribers with promises of new content, which, at best, won’t appear until after the winter solstice. My take on HBO Max is simple: it’s goddamn expensive, and right now they’re running little but reruns. It’ll probably work out because they’re not promoting that fact. But reasonable bean-counters understand that few people are going to maintain subscriptions to HBO Max, Disney+, AppleTV, CBS All Access, Peacock Premium, and Amazon Prime – to name but a very few – all at once. That’s a lot of money, and it’s also more programming than one can handle. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #085: Crossing The Stream”

Brainiac On Banjo #084: Me See DeeCee TeeVee

Brainiac On Banjo #084: Me See DeeCee TeeVee

Sweet Little Sixteen / She’s got the grown up blues / Tight dress and lipstick / She’s sportin’ high heal shoes / Oh, but tomorrow morning / She’ll have to change her trend / And be sweet sixteen / And back in class again. – Chuck Berry, Sweet Little Sixteen, 1958.

It seems that almost everybody is using their confinement to catch up on all kinds of television — mostly streaming or DVRed (that’s a verb now, right?). So, lapsing back into my traditional role as August Contrarian, I’ve decided to do a little catch-up on my book reading. Right now I’m about two-thirds of the way through Meyer Levin’s The Old Bunch, written in 1937. That’s only 35 years longer than I’ve had it on my shelf. As Brian Wilson and Mike Love said, I get around. Eventually.

But mopery is a force of my nature, so I have been watching a bit of teevee. Besides, I’ve never gotten a paper cut from watching television. I’ve been watching Stargirl, the latest presentation from Warner Bros.’ DC Comics think tank. The former goes up on both the DCUniverse streamer and The CW this coming week. Pop Culture Squad HBIC Adriane Nash (that’s what it says on her business card) and I had the privilege of watching the first three episodes of Stargirl, and my comments that follow come from the totality of this experience. Spoiler Alert: There really aren’t any spoilers here. Sorry.

Let it be said that I am a Justice Society fan — certainly the original creation, as well as most of its subsequent reincarnations. The JSA was the thing to collect when I was Li’l Fanboy, along with EC Comics, Carl Barks and The Spirit, and I remain a big fan of all four. Indeed, I now get nostalgic for nostalgia.

Stargirl is based upon the 1999 title Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.S. by Geoff Johns, Lee Moder and Dan Davis, with James Robinson riding shotgun on the first issue, which was #0. Yes, the comics racket remains mathematically challenged. The series lasted 15 issues, ending with #14 (reread the previous two sentences), and it was a conflation of the original Star-Spangled Kid, Starman(s), and various versions of the JSA as well as the JSA’s lame doppelgänger, The Seven Soldiers of Victory. A cute teenager discovers Starman’s cosmic belt as she discovers her step-father was the Star-Spangled Kid’s sidekick, Stripesy. Like all smart, precocious comic book teen-age characters, she wants to become a costumed superhero. Stripesy, being her dad, is not keen on the idea but seeing as how he’s got a huge Transformers-wannabe robot suit gathering dust in the garage, he supervises his stepdaughter while on the fly.

I loved the series. I was annoyed it got shitcanned after 15 issues… the last being #14, remember? I’m a jaded old fart — that goes hand-in-hand with being an August Contrarian — and I think Geoff did a wonderful job bringing teen-age angst into the story in a fashion that makes the reader root for the kid while still sympathizing with the concerns of her parents.

So I was quite pleased that the greater Warner Bros. empire chose Stargirl as the newest wing in the DCU mansion, but I was a hell of a lot more pleased that Geoff Johns created the teevee series, is writing it, and is an executive producer. That’s pretty damn rare; off-hand, I can’t recall that happening since The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, a show so ancient that some readers might need to IMBD it. Television scripts always go through a lot of hands and by the time it’s being filmed it’s got more notes than Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 3. Remarkably and to its credit, the shows I saw still maintain the feeling of Johns’ work, as well as his story.

I’m not letting any cats out of my collection of trick bags when I say that JSA fans of all… stripes… likely will enjoy the hell out of the third episode. It pleased my Li’l Fanboy heart to no end.

Like all DCU-CW series (and now, post-Crisis, much of the rest of their sundry media universes), Stargirl is fraught with continuity possibilities. I’m not saying she’ll show up in the next big-ass crossover, and I doubt the Powers That Be will let Stargirl get too close to John Constantine. That’s reasonable, but if Geoff wants to consider that a challenge, hey, who am I to pour cold water on a jail bait story?

I do have one question. If you’ve read any new Superman family stories over the past few years, you’ve seen the legend “Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. By special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family.” The creator credit also appears on the Supergirl CW show as well as other media derived from The Man of Steel. This was part of the end result of about 70 years of legal wrangling, and all accurate creator credits are well-deserved. Jerry Siegel also created the Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy. Shouldn’t there be a creator credit for Jerry as well?

Yeah, I know. But I’ll ask again when Steve Amell returns as The Spectre.

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.

DC Universe NYCC HQ Announced!

DC UNIVERSE is back in New York with the DC UNIVERSE Headquarters … or DCUHQ.

A true fan destination for its members, as well as all DC Fans to escape the hectic convention floor and enjoy unique and exclusive programming. Plus, no badge required!

DCUHQ will continue to give DC Fans and DC UNIVERSE members unique experiences, talent meet-ups and an array of programmed entertainment throughout the weekend including special events and giveaways.

A DC UNIVERSE membership unlocks the door for a chance to attend exclusive signings, screenings and private gatherings. Members can check back for an updated schedule of events here.

DCUHQ will be located just steps from Javits Center at: 447 W 36th St on the 3rd Floor

DCUHQ is open to the public during the following hours:

Friday October 4, 2019: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Saturday 10/5/19: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Sunday 10/6/19: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Brainiac On Banjo #040: Stream On, Big Media, Stream On…

Brainiac On Banjo #040: Stream On, Big Media, Stream On…

Frequent readers of Brainiac On Banjo (seriously; there must be something better for you to do) have been absorbing my incessant prattle about streaming media for a while now. Yeah, I think it’s important. Streaming is bringing about the biggest sea-change to the entertainment world since we dropped the atom bomb.

“Really?” you might ask. “Bigger than television? Bigger than VCRs/DVRs? Even bigger than microwave popcorn? Why?” Well, that’s a fair question, and thank you for asking.

It took television a while to become big. In constant dollars, tiny TV sets cost a lot of money, the image was low-resolution and often full of “ghost” images, and the youngest person in the room had to stand by the set holding the antenna in the proper position in order to watch anything. The sundry video recorders, mechanical and virtual, freed the viewer from a strict allegiance to the clock, and microwave popcorn saved Indiana from certain economic doom.

Steaming has taken time-control one step further: content creators no longer have to fight for a Donald Trump-sized handful of open slots on the broadcast networks. Cable television no longer is a monopoly unless it is your only source of wi-fi. It’s launched an employment boon for actors, producers, writers and other such entertainment reprobates. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #040: Stream On, Big Media, Stream On…”

Swamp Thing From DC Universe Is Dark & Enjoyable

Swamp Thing From DC Universe Is Dark & Enjoyable

DC Universe launches its third live-action series, Swamp Thing, on Friday, May 31st. This April, the originally thirteen episode order was shortened to ten, mid-production. Rumors swirled about the impending demise of the DC Universe platform, but the alarms turned out to be unfounded as more content is added to the app.

The comic version of Swamp Thing has been retconned and rebooted several times, each with very different vibes. The original Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson Swamp Thing was a Mary Shelley on the bayou, while the Alan Moore version was Faulkner on bad mushrooms. I was curious which way the new series would lean, and while it will probably evolve as the series goes on, the producers have drawn on their horror backgrounds to make a gumbo of the two.  Continue reading “Swamp Thing From DC Universe Is Dark & Enjoyable”

Brainiac On Banjo #038: Different? HA!

Brainiac On Banjo #038: Different? HA!

Are you tired of all of those superhero shows on television? After a while, do most of them kind of drift together as though they were Avengers Endgame on the installment plan? Well, if so, I’ve got the television show for you!

As noted previously, The Doom Patrol, on the DC Universe service with all episodes now streaming (and Swamp Thing beginning next week), started out with the Big Bad, Mr. Nobody, masterfully portrayed by Alan Tudyk with a nod to Frank Gorshin, telling the viewers that this is not going to be in any way shape or form your father’s superhero television show. Now that the first season has ended, it turns out he was absolutely on-the-money. The television series has been uncontrollably batshit — completely unpredictable, true to the spirit of the Vertigo version of the team, often brilliantly performed (Diane Guerrero deserves a separate paycheck for each version of Crazy Jane she portrays), and with special effects that are unique from anything else I’ve seen on broadcast or streaming. Oh, and it’s got really first-rate and highly dangerous writing. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #038: Different? HA!”

Brainiac On Banjo #037: Everything You Know Is Wrong, part ∞

Brainiac On Banjo #037: Everything You Know Is Wrong, part ∞

Followers of this column, as well as its predecessor somewhere over there, are well aware of my observation that our friends over at DC have a tendency to hit the reset button as though they were voting against Trump. The latter is admirable. The former is… confusing.

Case in point: The Batman. Or, as more popularly known… Batman. This has been his 80th birthday year, and it’s being celebrated by the complete lack of a major motion picture showing at a theater near you. I’m not being sarcastic — at least, not in this instance. After the past decade’s worth of Batman theatricals, the most respectful celebration is sans-movie. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #037: Everything You Know Is Wrong, part ∞”

Brainiac On Banjo #032: Stream On, It’s A Crazy Feeling!

Brainiac On Banjo #032: Stream On, It’s A Crazy Feeling!

Most likely you have noticed the shift from static broadcast and cable television and movies to streaming services such as Netflix and DC Universe… to name but two. This stuff is growing like amoebas on steroids. In the relatively few years since this all began, it has knocked the poo out of the free media industries.

Unlike their cohorts in cable and terrestrial broadcasting, theater owners saw this coming and, in order to protect their investments, started offering new experiences such as larger, more comfortable and more adjustable seating, a wider range of unhealthy overpriced foods and snacks, new screens that can be viewed from the International Space Station, and sound systems that will deafen you. Great fun!

For the moment, at least.

The American comic book industry jumped on this concept out of the same cultural-shift that affected these other entertainment industries. Peculiarly, American comic book publishers have not shown much in the way of innovation over the past 86 years; the last huge improvement came when Major Wheeler-Nicholson decided to commission new work instead of relying upon newspaper strip reprints. That happened a mere 84 years ago.

When comixology came along offering comics new and old to their subscribers to be read (but not stored) on computers and tablets, as well as on cellphones for those who enjoy squinting, most publishers were quick to embrace this new means of distribution. Since then, the quantity of such material has skyrocketed and now DC’s stream-liner, DC Universe, is claiming they will be offering damn near every DC-owned comic online as part of that service. It’s also available on your television set, assuming you enjoy squinting but doing so on your smartphone requires too much effort.

That’s cool. Technology marches on, and the side benefit is that we’re saving a lot of trees, creating more oxygen and using fewer fossil fuels to distribute pretty colors printed on the corpses of saplings. Some people, not all of whom are nostalgia-soaked geriatrics, don’t like this and that is completely understandable. Just wait until they must move their comic book collection to a new abode. With two-terabyte thumb-drives available and heading towards affordability, you can put a copy of every comic book ever published in America on maybe four such drives and drop them in your purse or pocket.

So, last week Apple announced their new Apple News+ program which will stream more than 240 newspapers and magazines into the ethersphere for $10 a month. Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times, Vogue… lots of stuff, with the promise of more to come. Well, that sounds convenient, particularly to those of us with tablets, and even more so to my fellow geriatrics with growing vision issues. That 13” iPad is looking better to me all the time, and I haven’t subscribed to this new service – at least not yet. Several more daily newspapers of note would be nice.

Immediately and quite predictably, the naysayers started screaming nay. “This will kill magazines and newspapers,” they say. Oh, yeah? If you live within a convenient walk of a retailer who offers more than 240 magazines and newspapers, consider yourself very lucky. Most people do not. If you want to choose from a variety of publications, you better be ready to drive out to one of the rapidly-dwindling big box stores such as Barnes and Noble and then pray for the best. This distribution method, pioneered by Apple with iTunes, saved the music industry. Is FYI still around? How about Borders? Ya wanna get this stuff somewhere.

If there’s but one rule that pervades Earth history, it’s that change is constant. Maintaining access to editorial content must adapt. If you lust for the smell of old paper – and I kinda do myself – pull apart one of those CGC clamshells and take a good snort.

(A tip of the hoodie to Buddy Holly for our headline this week)