Saturday, August 18, 2012

Today in Comics History, August 18: Tim Drake finishes his homework five minutes early

from "All the Deadly Days, Chapter 5: Bloodthirsty Thursday" in Batman 80-Page Giant #3 (July 2000), script by Chuck Dixon, pencils by Louis Small, Jr., inks by Caesar, colors by Glenn Whitmore, letters by John Costanza

Same Story, Different Cover: Raven hair and ruby lips / Sparks fly from her finger tips

Left: Marvel Spotlight v.1 #11 (August 1973), pencils by Rich Buckler, inks by Mike Esposito
Right: The Original Ghost Rider #7 (January 1993), pencils by Jeff Johnson, inks by Dan Panosian

(Click picture to black-magic-woman-size)

Today in Comics History, August 18: A lovely date with Alfred Pennyworth

from "The Death of a Romantic" in Heartthrobs #3 (DC/Vertigo, March 1999), script by Peter Milligan, pencils and inks by Eduardo Risso, colors by Grant Goleash, letters by Clem Robins

366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth, Day 231

Cover of Batman Family #13 (September 1977), pencils and inks by Jim Aparo

Friday, August 17, 2012


But while I'm catching up over here, don't forget to check out my bestest pal John's movie reviews all this week at other bestest pal Steve Kopian's Unseen Films! Here's the full week's line-up!
So there's five movies right there that you can talk about to your friends without even having seen them! Who says this isn't the Golden Age of Cool and Useful Bully Cocktail Party Chatter?!?

(Also, I'll be back soon!)

These Romans are crazy!

If you know that the narration to accompany this animated gif that I hastily created...

The year is 50 BC. Gaul is entirely occupied by the Romans. Well, not small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against the invaders. And life is not easy for the Roman legionnaires who garrison the fortified camps of Totorum, Aquarium, Laudanum and Compendium...
...then not only do you have excellent cultural literacy, but you also will enjoy my pal John's movie review tonight over at Unseen Films of Asterix at the Olympic Games. Yes, it's a movie review of of a film about the Olympics. John keeps to his schedule just about as well as I do! Haw! (No, seriously, check it out.)

366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth, Day 230

Panels from [Batman:] Legends of the Dark Knight #6 (April 1990), script by Grant Morrison, pencils and inks by Klaus Janson, colors by Steve Buccellato, letters by John Costanza

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Today in Comics History, August 16: Batman yadda yadda yadda so what else is new

from "Crimes of the Catwoman!" in Detective Comics #203 (DC, January 1954), script by Edmond Hamilton, pencils by Bob Kane, inks by Charles Paris, letters by Pat Gordon

366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth, Day 229

Panel from "Danger Strikes Three" in Detective Comics #86 (April 1944), script by Don Cameron, pencils and inks by Dick Sprang, letters by Pat Gordon

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My bees eat because I'm a landowner*

My best pal John is doing movie reviews all this week over at Unseen Films, and tonight's little bit of cinema is 1967's The London Nobody Knows. Both me 'n' John L-U-V London, so discovering this documentary for the first time was great. How else would I have known there was such a lucrative career to be had in egg-breaking?

I think I have my eventual life career all figgered out.

Oh, there's lots more, and more serious stuff, in the film. (You can watch the whole thing here. But please check out John's review, too!) It's hosted and narrated by James Mason. The Voice of God! So you know it's gonna be good.

*My favorite misreading of the lyrics for this song:

366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth, Day 228

Panel from JLA #119 (Late November 2005), script by Geoff Johns and Allan Heinberg, pencils by Chris Batista, inks by Mark Farmer, colors by David Baron, letters by Rob Leigh

Today in Comics History, August 15: Clayface spends some quality time with his new girlfriends

from "The Death of a Romantic" in Heartthrobs #3 (DC/Vertigo, March 1999), script by Peter Milligan, pencils and inks by Eduardo Risso, colors by Grant Goleash, letters by Clem Robins

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Un-immortal Beloved

Wow, look at all those Olympic laurel leaves this movie has won:

Too bad my pal John didn't like this movie as much as the Olympic judges. Even so, you can read his lukewarm review of Beloved over at Unseen Films, home of white-on-black film reviews, news, and more!

The movie stars Catherine Deneuve (ooh la la!) but warning: it also contains this scene:

366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth, Day 227

Panels from Batman: Odyssey v.2 #6 (May 2012), script and pencils by Neal Adams, inks by Kevin Nowlan, inking assists by Neal Adams and Josh Adams, colors by Moose Baumann and Cory Adams, letters by Dave Sharpe

An Olympic mystery, solved

Monday, August 13, 2012

Let's all go to the movies!

Panel from Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #162 (February 2003), script by John Arcudi; pencils, inks, and letters by Roger Langridge; colors by James Sinclair; color separations by Digital Chameleon

While I'm recovering from my hectic daily Olympic schedule (I made a mistake staying in Brighton and not at the Olympic village), I'll be bypassing my usual nightly posts. There will now be a slight pause while you say "Who cares?"*

However, you can coast on over to my pal DB's film blog, Unseen Films, to check out a review each night this week of all sortsa fun movies! (Caution: the words "These Romans are crazy!" may occur at some point this week.) To be fair, the posts are actually written by my best pal John, but I helped with the popcorn-makin'.

Tonight! A murder is committed in front of 35,000 people watching a football match in The Arsenal Stadium Mystery! Yes, it's a movie about British football (aka soccer) that co-stars actual members of the Arsenal team, the only F.A. club actually named after a tube stop.

It's a grand film for fans of classic British detective films, and Leslie Banks is top-notch as multiple-behatted Scotland Yard Inspector Anthony Slade hunting down a dangerous murderer of footballers. But if'n you ask me, the real mystery of the movie is what the heck is Gwen Stefani staring at in space for what seems like twenty minutes when she's informed there's been a murder?

*Thank you for letting me borrow rent that joke, Mister Benny.

366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth, Day 226

Panel from Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #162 (February 2003), script by John Arcudi; pencils, inks, and letters by Roger Langridge; colors by James Sinclair; color separations by Digital Chameleon

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Today in Comics History, August 12, 1897: Invention of the ironic use of the word "safe"

from Bram Stoker's Dracula #3 (Topps, December 1992), script by Roy Thomas, pencils by Mike Mignola, inks by John Nyberg, colors by Mark Chiarello, letters by John Costanza

Congratulations to all our 2012 Olympic Medal Winners!

The Official Comic Book Panels of the Day of the 2012 Olympics: Closing Ceremonies

There's a type of Carl Barks Donald Duck story commonly termed "the brittle mastery of Donald Duck," in which everymanduck Donald initially shows incredible and astounding skill at some profession or occupation, only to have the entire situation collapse in on him in a Rube Goldbergesque slapstick finish, leaving him to give up his work (or, sometimes, to be chased right out of town). Barks's story in Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #188 (unofficially titled "The Olympic Hopeful") is no such brittle mastery—Donald shows no skill at any competitive sports right from the beginning! Like "The Olympian Torch Bearer" in WDC&S #286, Mister Duck's grand dreams of glory are doomed from the start. But this story, unlike the other, carries with it a message and a gentle ending that exemplifies the spirit of the Olympics and should be taken to heart by every athlete: man, woman, or fowl.

Duckburg is holding competitions to send its athletes to the Olympics, and you-know-who wants in on that:

Panels from "The Olympic Hopeful" in Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #188 (May 1956), script, pencils, and inks by Carl Barks

His first attempt, at the 100 meter dash, looks promising when his more athletic competitor is held out of the race:

But even with that advantage, Donald doesn't exactly have the eye of the tiger. or even the feet of the tall mouse. Looks like he didn't eat his Wheaties this morning!

Take two: another competition, another potential competitor taken out of the race in a humorous way (he's struck oil on his land and decides to retire immediately from athletics). Does Donald have a chance in this event?

By now you've gotten the rhythm of the story, and Barks doesn't disappoint. Another event, another potential Olympian disqualified (his schoolmarm arrives to announce he can't compete until he learns his A-B-Cs). And yet again, in an unopposed field, can Donald triumph? Nope.

He's certainly not making any fans among the judges...

...or the onwatching crowd!

Everyone has given up on Donald by the last event, the 1500 meter run.

Everyone, that is, except for those rhyming-named sons of fun, Huey, Dewey, and Louis! Go, Donald, go!

So no athlete from Duckburg will go onto represent that little Calisota town in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, and what's more, Donald is now (or, more accurately, once again) the laughing-stock of all. Except for three Donald fans who show their appreciation and respect for his athletic attempts:

Man, you've gotta hand it to them...those Junior Woodchucks know the true meaning of sportsmanship. As this Olympics draws to an end, so many we all! Even if we wear pants.

366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth, Day 225

Panel from "The Second Boy Wonder!" in Batman #105 (February 1957), script by France Herron, pencils by Sheldon Moldoff, inks by Charles Paris, letters by Ira Schnapp

The Official Comic Book Panels of the Day of the 2012 Olympics, Day 17: The time Batman invented bowling in the Ancient Grecian Olympics

This one is too good a story to just pass off with a couple panels. So let's dive more deeply into the gold-medal winning* (*Disclaimer: story did not actually win a gold medal) "Peril in Greece" from Batman #38!

Splash page from "Peril in Greece" in Batman #38 (December 1946-January 1947), script by Edmond Hamilton, pencils and inks by Jim Mooney, letters by Ira Schnapp

It all begins with an insulting put-down from Batman to Robin. Yep, that's the encouragement your young protégé needs, 1940s Bruce! Who are you...1990s Bruce?

So: off to the 5th Century BC! (It's easy when you're Batman.)

As happens often in his time-travelling adventures, Batman instantly becomes entangled in an illegal gambling ring instituted by a crooked Persian. What is it about these things that Batman can't stay out of them?!?

But, just like every fight within the first three pages of a comic book story, all-s well and everybody becomes friends. Batman and Robin are befriended by the Beefy Heroes of Athens™, while the wily and sneaky Persian criminal runs away like the cowardly weasel he is. Run away! That's right, you weasel...right away!

Batman uncovers an Olympic-hobbling ring targeting the Athenians, and he vows, when an Athenian wrestler is thrown through his window, to uncover and avenge this ancient crime! Which is perfect timing, because Athenian Olympic athletes have been kidnapped by the wily Persian Byrus! Which, you'll all agree, is not as comfortable as being kidnapped by a wily Persian cat.

As quickly as he can pronounce his destination, Batman quickly rushes to the Acropolis, where the Parthenon is!

Anyway, in the Acropolis where the Parthenon is, there are no straight lines, and no straight men, because "not even murderers could be arrested in the sacred temples of Ancient Greece!" The Joker immediately booked his flight on Aegean Airlines.

Of course, Batman and the other one save the kidnaped athletes, leading to them being declared official citizens of Athens! I do believe that means they are honor-bound to protect Athens from its criminals and underworld by night. Luckily, Grecian criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot. What Batman now needs to do is negotiate his pay. After all, what's a Grecian earn?*

Olympia! Whoa, that's impressive! (It's only a model.)

If you've been keeping track of the plot so far instead of just admiring the impressive display of Grecian beefcake (and who wouldn't!), you'll remember that there's a faction trying to hobble the Olympic Games. Through the cunning use of throwing spears! Robin and...I dunno, looks like Hercules, but his name is probably "Bob" after the perpetrator using the ancient Athenian version of the Batmobile...a horse! (Of course, of course.)

Batman is eager to join the chase, but he's paused by the gentle touch of Milo's ham-sized hand. The Olympics are beginning! Kenneth Branagh is already smoking a cigar and smirking happily! It's time for the games to begin!

The plot device we all knew was coming suddenly arrives: Batman must participate in the Olympics! But surely that will disrupt the time-space continuum...oh, the heck with it. BATMAN'S GONNA BE IN THE OLYMPICS!

To the stirring strains of "Tubular Bells," the Olympic athletes march into the stadium in their native garb. Batman is the only one who is not bare-chested, depriving every reader who loves bare-chested Batman fighting and getting sweaty. C'mon, Batman...a l'il sugar for us, huh?

But Batman is worried about Robin! As in, "I'm concerned for him," or "I'm concerned he'll screw this up just like he did at the beginning of the story when I called him a wimp," we don't know which.

Now, for those of you who are fans of Frank Miller, here is that exact same scene re-presented in glorious full-color All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder-scope!

Skeptical Athenians are skeptical. I believe this means that the Grecian bookmakers will have to return all bets because no one could have foreseen Batman entering, and therefore in the interests of honesty in the ancient customs of...BWAH-HA-HA-HA! Oh, I couldn't even get through that without laughing. They're keepin' every shiny quatloo for themselves.

But remember: always bet on Batman. Why, he hit this guy so hard his face turned into delicious raspberry jam! Mmmmm, jam.

Oh yeah, remember the rest of the plot? Batman is now able to catch up with Robin, who's let his wingman Damon get injured and let the Persian bad guys escape on their way to assassinate the equestrian events Spartan Olympian to foment (thank you, Word of the Day Calendar!) civil war in Greece. Since everyone in ancient Greece is as valiant and noble as Golden Age Batman, Damon volunteers to stay behind with his flesh wound and sends Batman and Robin back to the Olympics. "We'll just let you lie in the dirt until then...we'll send help later!"

Of course, breaking every rule of the Olympics, Robin rides in the horse race while Batman and Milo clean up the Persians! With plenty of soap and water, because clean living is the first trademark of the crime-fighter, old chum.

Batman invents bowling. Which is therefore instituted as an official Olympic sport from that day forward. I hope when you watched this years 2012 London Olympics and saw the valiant alley battles of your favorite Olympic team that you paused for a moment to raise a toast to Batman, inventor of bowling! Huzzah!

Then Batman and Robin go back home to 1946. (Look, just work with me on this one, okay?) And the Batcave gets a pair of shining new ornaments: Batman and Robin's Olympic laurel wreaths! Just off panel, Alfred sighs wearily, knowing that's yet one more thing for him to dust. And say, what's that thing in the trophy case to the right? Is that the wheel from "The Adventure of the Giant Car with the Really Dangerous Wheel?" (Batman vs. Nazis #4, Summer 1943).

So, the lesson of Batman's story is the same one as Danny Boyle's Olympic opening ceremonies: that the strength of a country is based upon equality and shared experience, useful in fighting off those who would undermine the Olympics, whether that be greedy and jealous political enemies or a one-hundred-foot Lord Voldemort! Also, that you can travel back in time through hypnosis! Hail Batman! Hail Robin! Hal Jordan!

*Depends on his social class. Generally an average of five or six drachmas an hour.