Thursday, June 30, 2005


I have Johnny Bacardi to thank for calling my attention to part one of Logan Polk's handy dandy recap of Batman's onscreen adventures from the serials to the new movie. Needless to say, I don't agree with every single thing Polk says, but it's a nice summary, supplemented with reviews of some recent comics.

The line that caught my eye was the one where Polk notes that Warner Bros. is preparing special-edition DVDs of the 2 Tim Burton movies. I had a funny feeling something like this was up when I started noticing the boxed set of those 2 plus the 2 Schumacher films (which--heresy alert!--I don't actually hate as much as the rest of the universe does) priced to move at Target, Media Play, and elsewhere, presumably as a tie-in with the new film. I've had my eye on the box ever since I started seeing it going for 30 bucks or so, but I'd been holding off because there are next to no bonus features. Now I guess I'll wait, or buy the 2 Schumachers at the current sale prices (though those should be pretty easy to find even cheaper, given their notoriety).

Oh, and lookie here: from the Google ads accompanying Polk's article I also found this compedium of New York Times coverage of the caped crusader--including another critical retrospective, this one a spiffy multimedia bonanza narrated by critic Manohla Dargis. Enjoy. Maybe I will, too, someday--though I tend to spend more time posting links than actually pursuing them myself, these days.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Technology triumphs at last

Hey, wow, can I really post images here now for the first time? If so, let the games begin with a couple of mementoes shot earlier today:


A little blurry, yes, but I took them on my phone (god, I love the 21st century), on the sly, and in a great hurry. Poorly cropped butt shots don't really bother me, and I hope they won't bug you, either.

Dear friends, we stand on the verge of a new era in H&V history. Such treaures I have in store for you in the days and months ahead...

Charge of the Bat Brigade

I happened to catch Adam West discussing Batman Begins on G4/TechTV's increasingly annoying Attack of the Show. (Come back, Patrick and Leo, we miss you!) I don't have the energy to find out if a clip is available online, but here's a discussion of the segment on AOTS's blog. In his generally positive review of the new film, Mr. West (who is certainly starting to show his age) says the kinds of things he usually says, which is comforting, I guess, and there's some tomfoolery involving the interviewer suiting up and fighting (don't ask why) a cute, nontraditional Superman (by which I mean a guy who looks nothing like the usual Superman but totally like someone I would sleep with, particularly if he had that outfit on).

There's also plug for a Batman Credit Card, which is indeed available at, though it's not quite what you might expect, and probably not worth $25. Oh, and one of the show's hosts makes a reference to reading some fan fiction online, which strikes me as noteworthy for some reason.

It's weird: the humor on the '66 TV series was truly sublime, and yet pretty much every time in the intervening decades that someone has had West appear on a talk show to discuss the program, they feel obliged to emulate/parody/salute the series in some way that totally misses the mark. A friend of mine says he learned post-modernism by watching Bullwinkle; for me it was the '66 Batman (and Green Acres) and Bullwinkle, of course) and it's just irritating to watch such subtle, self-reflexive wit transformed into such corny, broad, embarassing crap.

On the other hand, don't think for a second that that's gonna stop me from eventually purchasing my very own DVD copy of Return to the Batcave, which may be a perfect example of what I've just complained about but which features some delightful footage of hottie Jack Brewer as a young Adam W. trying on the batsuit for the very first time. I don't mind cringing at a bad bat-homage when it's accompanied by something like that.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Super readers, double agents, and other "guilty" pleasures

Here's an interesting article on modern-day superhero comics from the Boston Phoenix by Douglas Wolk from a few months back. Lots of sensible observations, mainly about the way that the readership of comics has aged and grown more sophisticated over the years, leading to the rise of the "super reader"--the kind who gets all the inside jokes and external references in every issue of, say, Superman. Superhero comics now cater to these readers, which means you have to know all kinds of backstory in order to follow a storyline. (Wolk theorizes that this explains the recent popularity of translated manga among American kids: stories that stand alone, no baggage you're expected to know from the outset, etc.)

In a sidenote, he mentions a book I don't know but want to check out: Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips’s Sleeper, which he describes this way: "superhero joins the villains’ team as a double agent and becomes so morally compromised that he no longer knows what side he’s on." My favorite theme! Anybody know this one?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Batz & Robinson

A few days ago I got an e-mail from a guy who's been reading BEGINNINGS and has started his own serial in blog form, called DETECTIVE'S LOG. The story is just getting started, but it's clear that he's doing with the hard-boiled/pulp genre what I try to do with my favorite superhero: creating a new version that includes the scenes we (as horny gay readers) have always wanted to see in them.

This is a particular treat for me, because (shifiting for a moment to the film adaptations of these stories) I'd much rather see Humphrey Bogart get it on with, say, Dick Powell than Lauren Bacall. I love film noir (and the novels of Cain and Chandler) mostly for aesthetic/cerebral/intellectual reasons, but I admit that the men tend to be pretty manly (with plenty of that five o'clock shadow that I've rambled on about before) and there's a good chance in lots of the films that the anti-hero will eventually find himself knocked out, tied up, and messed around with in some vaguely Batmanish manner. The relationship in DETECTIVE'S LOG between the "boss-man" and his sidekick/"Boy Friday" (as well as their names, indicated in the subject line above) explicitly refers to Batman and Robin, too.

If you like that gritty, smoke-filled, black-and-white world--and the lingo of the pulps--then you might just wanna get in on the ground floor of DETECTIVE'S LOG.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The reviews are in...

Okay, so I saw You Know What tonight. And I kept finding the insatiable bat-fetishist in me getting brushed aside by the trend-tracking sociologist. Here's the instant response--and I guess I should insert a spoiler alert here, although I don't think I'm giving away anything major:

1. Damn, is that thing LONG. I was convinced four hours had gone by--three, easy. (Surprise: it's just over two.) Given how much the filmmakers have taken on (Bruce's missing years, complicated gangster saga, multiple villains, etc), I don't see how they could do it in any less time or any faster (those cuts in the combat sequences are migh-tee fast as it is), but it just seemed to go on and on. (I had the same complaint about the second Spider-Man movie, which everybody else seemed to love, so maybe it's just my Attention Deficit Disorder actin' up or somethin'.)

2. Interesting, isn't it, how so many blockbusters these days strive for such epic sweep--and ask for such major investments of time and attention span from audiences, even though we keep hearing that nobody has much of either any more? And not only are individual films longish, they tend to be single installments in trilogies (Star Wars, Spider-Man, Lord of the Rings, and now, apparently, Batman). Which actually works pretty well for modern-day comics, since--as in lots of recent TV series--storylines generally unfold in long, multi-issue arcs. (BTW, thank god some of the bad guys actually get away in this one; the tendency to kill them all off was my number one beef about the earlier batmovies. How can Batman be locked in lifelong struggle against an archenemy if the poor sap dies after two hours? Whatever happened to dragging them off to jail, only to have them escape a year or two later? That always worked well for me...)

3. Fun to watch the screenwriters weave together so many threads from various comics--not just the Year One and Long Halloween stories I figured would be there, but also The Last Arkham, elements of the R'as Al Ghul mythology, even a little of the texture (if not the actual plot) of the whole post-earthquake-Gotham-as-war-zone stuff from a few years ago. And hey, a shout out to Mr. Zsasz! (What, no naked body shot?) It's a giant hodgepodge, but somehow it works.

4. New suit: hot. (Still miss the spandex, but I guess we'll never ever see that in an official batfilm--though I notice the new Superman seems to be sportin' the lycra.) Wish we could see more of the outfit. But maybe that's what the next 2 movies (and the inevitable collector's-edition DVDs) are for. Side note: have you seen the accompanying toys? There's a utility belt I would kill for, if only it came in an adult size.

5. Speaking of kids, this really doesn't seem to be made for them, which suits me just fine. For starters, there's that length issue. But then the whole approach to the character is pretty adult--and it's ABOUT TIME.

6. Christian Bale: cute. May even replace Val Kilmer as sexiest movie Batman. But it's weird, having seen him as a little kid in Empire of the Sun not so very very long ago, to watch him play a character I've always taken to be older than me. It was one thing when I realized some of the movie Batmen were my age or slightly younger, but I'm not sure I can handle being closer to Alfred than Bruce.

7. The new car: silly. I like the basic idea, but when it starts leaping from rooftop to rooftop, and the only way in and out of the batcave is via a waterfall, we're talking Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, people. Might not bug me so much if the filmmakers didn't go on and on about how they've taken a realistic approach to the story. (The aforementioned chase sequence was the moment where I felt like the filmmakers had lost me. Though they got me back eventually, I guess.)

8. Bruce's spiritual quest: naturally I like this. Okay, so he's attended the School of Star Wars Philosophy, but it's still nice to see a film deal with this stuff. And I love the twist that it's Bruce himself (more than the criminals) who's afraid of bats.

9. Overall, a very successful job of relaunching the, ahem, franchise. (It always bugs me when folks discuss this as a revamp of the film series. This character has been around for over 70 years--in comics, newspapers, radio, serials, live-action tv, animation, etc. Making a new film about him is not exactly like doing a remake of The Dukes of Hazzard.) The new film is every bit as fresh a re-invention of the bat saga as the Tim Burton movies were, and I actually like it a lot more than those, even if it didn't quite blow me away the way I hoped it might.

10. Oh, yeah: I've already vented many times about my aversion to origin stories, but I must say, that aspect of BB didn't bother me too much. The basic strategy seems completely of a piece with the Star Wars prequels (which I didn't really like any less than episodes 4-6, since I didn't care for them too much to begin with): take a series of iconic characters and show, in sometimes painstaking detail, how they came into being. Everybody knows how the story is going to end, so the challenge is to make the journey something special. So the filmmakers get a chance to investigate aspects of the saga that aren't particularly essential to the narrative, but that still shed light on the larger story. In this era of DVD commentaries and bonus features (and special edition double-disc repackages of classic albums, for that matter), it's like the entire prequel is a bonus feature. That could easily be overkill, but this time it just doesn't bug me. It's safe to say that if this were the first time I encountered the Batman character, I'd still be intrigued.

11. Bonus: thank you, thank you, THANK you, Chris Nolan and company, for resisting the urge to have your characters spout wisecracks every few minutes. And I'm not just talking about the last two bat-films, by any means: for the last two decades or longer, EVERY big action film and horror film (and BB is a bit of both) has been plagued with this tendency, and it ruins many a movie for me. There are a few one-liners in BB, but they don't appear for at least an hour or so, and they're totally welcome, since the film is otherwise so relentlessly (and deliciously) sober and serious.

So that's my take. How about posting yours below?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Batwatch 2

Nope, I still haven't seen the new movie. (The only batfilm I've ever seen on opening night was the first Burton/Keaton one--although it's likely I was in a theater the night the 1966 movie hit my town; I just don't remember.) But I hear good things, and I'm sure I'll see it soon when I am just a teensy bit less busy. Feel free to post your own reactions to it here.

In the meantime, let me steer fellow batfans toward Entertainment Weekly's detailed collection of articles on the bat-phenomenon from the last few years.

Oh, and I thought I had already written something further here about NPR's heavy-duty coverage, which at last count included four stories in a two-day period (what, is the beleagured Corporation for Public Broadcasting now a subsidiary of Time-Warner?). Every one of those stories included the same soundbite from the film, in which the future Caped Crusader tells Alfred about his quest to stir people from their apathy, how as a mere man he can die, and how he therefore needs to transform himself into a symbol. Wow, Bruce Wayne must have taken the same semiotics courses I did--sounds like the making of an ACT UP member, circa 1988!

Speaking of those NPR stories, this interview with Frank Miller is particularly informative. And, yep, it includes the soundbite, too.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


In case you're awaiting the new batmovie with bated breath, here's an interesting interview with Christian Bale from the NPR show Fresh Air. There's a bit at the end where he reveals he's not doing publicity in his actual Welsh accent so as not to call attention to his own nationality while playing an American icon--meaning his "American" voice becomes kind of a disguise of his own.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Sympathy for the Devil

From a strictly fetishistic point of view--which is probably not the demographic they're aiming for--the WB's animated series The Batman has gotten a lot better in its second season. Way more death traps, injections of deadly substances, near-unmaskings, etc., and ample portrayals of our hero in the batsuit sans mask, gloves, etc.

Don't get me wrong: the show is still prrretttttttty bad in all other respects, like plot, dialogue, voice acting, etc. But I'm fairly shallow when it comes to getting my cartoon-superhero rocks off, and the first season was so thoroughly devoid of kink (and remarkably awful in every other way) that just about anything would be an improvement.

They're already into self-parody, with the episode "The Laughing Bat" featuring the Joker running around pretending to be the Batman (true to the show's ineptitude, it's never made clear exactly why he's doing this, or even if he's aware that he's not really Bats), then dosing the real BM with a poison that makes him giggle uncontrollably at other people's misfortune, thus reversing their time-honored roles. And, yes, this one features the obligatory Adam West cameo. (This time he plays the mayor; needless to say, it's not nearly as clever as his casting as The Grey Ghost in the beloved B:TAS, but we all know how left out Adam feels when they don't invite him to drop by.)

Another recent episode alllllllmost pulled off something truly surprising and moving. (Spoiler alert, for the five of you out there who actually might care about this show.) In part one of a two-parter, Joker captures one of those two police detectives whose lives have been intersecting with Batman's since the beginning of the series; J tortures him until he breaks, then gasses him with an untested compound that seems to mess up his complexion pretty badly. In part two, Batman has a brand-new enemy: Clayface!

Never mind that this is only the 200th completely different origin story for CF (and the cop is only the 201st person to assume the role). The big problem is the poor guy's abrupt (and, once again, badly explained) transformation into a sci-fi villain. The writers have provided some interesting tidbits, like CF's inability to speak coherently, leading everyone on the police force to assume he's simply a run-of-the-mill monster instead of a once-trusted colleague, and the police commissioner's longstanding war on "freaks," which includes both BM and CF, but these don't really go anywhere. And the dude also seems to figure out his poorly defined powers mighty quickly. Let's just say it pales in comparison to the origin story for Mr. Freeze in Sub-Zero, which remains the most single moving tweak to the classic Rogue's Gallery. Even so, there's an element of tragedy to this revised Clayface (the episode ends on a particularly poignant note) that is far beyond the usual grasp of the new series, and that's gotta be worth something. It's cool that they've taken a recurring character and completely pulled the rug out from under him.

Speaking of humanized super-villains, I still haven't seen Revenge of the Sith. (Let's face it, I'm just not that big of a Star Wars fan--and I get a little nervous every time one of these new movies opens and everyone laughs at the geeks who dress up like their favorite characters--little too close to home for moi.) But it certainly fits in with a larger trend in popular culture: bad guy as fallen hero, i.e., tragic victim rather than malicious perpetrator. As a reader of Paradise Lost in my English Major youth, I ain't gonna claim this trend is in any way NEW, but it does seem to have a distinctly twenty-first-century urgency nowadays. Film noir brought us the Anti-Hero and the concept got refined in the 60s and 70s, only to vanish during the Reagan era; now we have the Good Man Who is Driven to Evil Even Though He Knows Better. Episode Three is the only one of the SW movies, old or new, that I've actually been eager to see, because I can't wait to see Anakin's transformation into Vader.

If you've followed my own exploits in online bat-fantasy as chronicled here, you can surely guess why I'm so fascinated by this trope: because I've lived through it myself (at least in the virtual realm). As of this writing I've been Monk-free for about two months and my "Ratman" days are but a distant memory--but there's no getting around the fact that I was indeed broken, turned to the Dark Side, did things I'm not proud of and can't undo, yadda yadda yadda. But maybe I'll save the update on that front for some future "Knightfall" installment (or not: there really haven't been too many developments in the saga for a while, thanks in large part to my overly busy B. Wayne schedule--not much bat activity 'round these parts in weeks, sad to say).

What I find most interesting about the Bad-Guy-as-Good-Guy-Gone-Wrong scenario is how much more ethically complicated (and therefore more realistic) it is than the whole rhetoric of the Bush administration--you know, that "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists" malarkey. Oh, and I've neglected to mention that the cop who becomes the shape-shifting, identity-borrowing Clayface, is a black man, a premise chock full of possibilities you just know the creators of The Batman cartoon won't even begin to explore.