Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Goodbye...Farewell and Amen Redux

One of my favorite words in the English language is “bittersweet”. The expressions is wonderfully textured, promising sadness and happiness within the same experience. I often find this experience in music and film.

The final scene in Casablanca when Bogart sends Bergman off with her husband even though they both wish to stay with each other is bittersweet. The parting hurts but doing what they both know to be right is the sweetness that leavens the pain.

Sinatra at 50 in his seminal Reprise Album “September Of My Years” waxes bittersweet in such songs as “The Way You Look Tonight”
Some day, when I'm awfully low,
When the world is cold,
I will feel a glow just thinking of you...
And the way you look tonight

Final episodes of well loved TV shows can be bittersweet. One of the most memorable images I can remember on television is the final shot of the last episode of M*A*S*H* “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen”

It is never an easy thing to say “goodbye” to things that are dear to you.

Friends, lovers….chocolate chip ice cream.

Saying “goodbye” can be very…


Just so we’re clear here…I HATE SAYING GOODBYE!

So how does this all tie out to comic books?

Glad you Poozers asked!

For a DC comics fan like MOI (or even just me) this last week has been especially bittersweet. A bunch of final issues have come down the pipe to make room for the new 52 coming the first week in September. Supergirl, Powergirl, Superboy, Justice League Of America, Batman and on and are all singing their swan songs.

Considering that there are very FEW things I dislike more than saying “goodbye” , I had a very bittersweet week.

I am going to miss Stephanie Brown. She came a long way as Batgirl but she never lost her Buffyesque take on life.

Connor Kent finally finds comfort in his own skin…but that “skin” is going to go through some pretty radical changes…so will Kara’s.

Clark and Bruce are going to have to rediscover a friendship that made them “World’s Finest”…if they rediscover it at all.

Saying goodbye to Oracle is going to be especially hard because she may just be the most remarkable hero in all of the DC Universe.

But here’s the thing…

In my experience, “goodbyes” are almost always balanced by some pretty wonderful “hellos”. For every actor who leaves the stage, another enters.
So it will be with…DC!

Oracle with go or change but Barbara Gordon will be reclaiming the title “Batgirl”

Kara Zor-El is still going to be Supergirl, though word has it that, most of the time, she will be a bit…cranky.

We are going to rediscover the wonder of watching a young man from another planet become the greatest hero of all time.

There is going to be a new, and from the looks of it, dynamic Justice League Of America.

Oh and Batman will be…Batman.

Some things never change!

I suspect that Johns and company at DC will stay very close to the core elements of all these beloved characters. Myths change with the time but the essential story is eternal.

I will miss my old friends, some of whom have been around since the last real DC reboot in the mid 80’s. Others we have picked up along the way.
It has been a wonderful journey.

And I have heard many fans who feel a bit betrayed by all of this. As if DC is just casting aside their characters AND their established fan base in an effort to engage a new generation of readers.

Yeah…it took me a couple of years to warm up to Captain Picard and “The Next Generation” but once I did, THEY became old friends too.
And here’s another thing…

Old friends, like favorite books never really leave us.
We can always visit with them again.

Farewell old friends….Welcome new friends. I am betting the new journey will be every bit as much fun as the last one!

That’s 30!


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Popcorn please!

In days of yore (or mine as the case may be) there was a Saturday morning entertainment known as the Movie Serial. These films were chapter plays running between 10 and 20 minutes with a new segment being released each week.

These serials were also called "chapter plays". In essence they were motion pictures broken into a number of segments called "chapters" or "episodes". Each chapter would be screened at the same theater for one week. The serial would end with a cliffhanger in which the hero and heroine would find themselves in a situation from which there apparently could be no escape. Viewers would have to return in subsequent weeks to see the cliffhangers resolved and to follow the continuing story. To my knowledge no one ever actually “died” from hanging off the cliff.

Made on an extremely limited budget, using unknown or “C” list talent. Serials were quickly cranked out and fed into the movie theater chains of the day.

Movie Serials were especially popular with children. From the silent era and “Perils Of Pauline’ (1914) through the 1950’s, the chapter play was a Saturday staple. The advent of television would eventually spell the demise of this particular art form.

During the peak of their popularity, Movie Serials were dominated by Westerns, but virtually every genre from crime drama to horror was used in these chapter plays.

During the Golden Age of movie serials (1937-1945) the subject matter turned to what we refer to as “genre” sci-fi and of course Superheroes began to show up and eventually dominate the form. Both Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers were especially successful and made a star of former Olympian Buster Crabbe.

The honor of being the very first comic book superhero, to appear in a serial was Fawcett’s Captain Marvel (although The Green Hornet who’s origins lay in radio appeared a year earlier). Made in 1941 this 12 part chapter play was produced by republic Pictures and starred Tom Tyler in the titular role. While Captain Marvel did not have the light hearted, humorous nature of the comic books, the Serial was very successful and is looked upon today as one of the very best sound era chapter plays.

With the success of The Adventures Of Captain Marvel, the flood gates opened. Batman, Captain America, Blackhawk and, of course Superman followed over the next few years. Superman and Atom Man Vs. Superman (1948 and 1950 respectively) were both quite popular and also just about the last gasp of a dying art form. The Superman serials starred former song and dance man Kirk Alyn in the titular role and an impossibly young Noel Neill as Lois Lane. (Neill would later replace Phyllis Coates on TV’s Adventures Of Superman and is the actress most connected to the role).

While Captain America and Batman bore little resemblance to their comic book counterparts. Captain America, in fact was originally a different character entirely and pretty much only the costume was changed. This made little difference, however to the millions of kids who flocked to the theaters each Saturday to follow the adventures of their favorite comic book heroes.

Yes, these comic book adaptations were crude and low budgeted. The scripts often bore little resemblance to the source matter. (Though the Superman serials WERE fairly faithful adaptations given the limitations of budget and special effects). The actors were strictly ham and eggers. BUT the super hero chapter plays did prove that comic book characters were marketable film properties and inevitably lead to the summer blockbuster films of today such as 2011’s Captain America and Thor.

That’s 30!