Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Yvonne Craig, "The" Batgirl, R.I.P.

I had a crush on Yvonne Craig's Batgirl.

I won't be surprised to see that on a lot of blog posts in the days ahead. And rightly so - I had a huge crush on Yvonne Craig's Batgirl and Barbara Gordon. She had amazing legs...thick and shapely, and then the episode of Batman where she's in a black bathing suit that revealed her impressive cleavage and left nothing to the imagination...oh yeahhh.

I'll leave it at that and try to keep things classy from here on...

Batgirl was cool when Yvonne Craig played her in the final season of the 1966 Batman TV series. She wasn't just likable - she was intelligent, confident, sincere, enthusiastic and feisty. She had a great body ( more curves than Julie Newmar, surprisingly ), but it was her charming, energetic performance that made her sexy. Add to that a shiny tight purple costume and she actually outclassed Adam West and Burt Ward's Batman and Robin. Before and after the show ended, her career was a series of guest-appearances and co-starring roles on film and television during the 60's and 70's, including appearances on Star Trek, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., My Favorite Martian and Mannix, but Batgirl was her career-defining role - the first female superhero from the comic books ever portrayed in live-action film/television.

That final season has often been written off as the time when the series was "..limping along", as Dennis O'Neill once put it, iirc. It had become too formulaic and predictable, plus, watching those later episodes, particularly the scenes where West is out of costume as Bruce Wayne...he looked strangely haggard - like he'd been enjoying the Hollywood night life too often and the carousing was beginning to take a toll, but the batsuit hid it well. And then they changed the format slightly: the stories eschewed 2-part stories in favor of single one-off tales ( aside from a deadly dull 3-part episode featuring Rudy Valle as Lord Fogg that NOBODY liked ), though the cliffhangers would persist to help promote the next episode.

This Batgirl didn't really exist in the comic books. The comics incarnation of Barbara Gordon was capable and amicable, allowed little moments of cleverness and flair  ( e.g.: possesing a photographic memory, making her casualwear a reversible Batsuit, running for congress and winning an election, enjoying a flirtation with Superman ), but she was less-artful and never so masterful. It's only within the last year that the comics are offering a take on Barbara that is reminiscent of Yvonne's Batgirl; prior to that, I did enjoy the episodes of the 2004-2008 cartoon, The Batman featuring her, a younger, spunkier take that revived the purple costume for the first time in a long time...

I do find it ironic that Yvonne's passing will likely reverse judgment on that last season. It was a silly show, but there was nothing silly about her. To many fans, she is not just the definitive Batgirl..she was Batgirl.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Fantastic Floored

Are the Fantastic Four cool? I don't think so. I don't think they are edgy or dark or, to be honest, likable or heroic in an archetypal sense - they're too flawed. What makes them an effective superhero team is that they're dependant on eachother to accomplish anything. Reed Richards likes to work in solitude, Sue Storm-Richards is often described as having potential to be the real powerhouse heart & soul of the team, but while she does have her moments, she is not Wonder Woman. Johnny is a giant dork who thinks he's cool, but always runs the risk of being a fatuous phony. Franklin is the wild card - one moment, he's this ordinary, sometimes saccharine Beaver Cleaver-type, the next..he might as well be a djinn. Valeria thinks Doctor Doom is a cool guy and would probably leaves the back door open for him to crash family events. Namor is the myopic homewrecker. As for Victor, he's the guy who has everything, but not exactly to his liking.

And then there's Ben - The Thing. This guy can hold his own against The Hulk, knows how to fly rocketships and has a college education..yet he likes to downplay his intelligence, which is interesting..but never explored much.

All these characters play off eachother and are dependent on eachother...but they are not The Incredibles. That lazy analogy keeps coming up and bores me because the Fantastic Four have a much richer, varied and interesting world than the one depicted in that Pixar film.

I have a theory that nobody really knows what to do with these characters, which is why I'm convinced we've seen a lot of boring/unremarkable/awful comics, cartoons and movies with them. I think it's because the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby run is so highly regarded that the book stagnated and went out of gas, creativity, although John Byrne and Walt Simonson's respective tenures do have a lot of fans. But the consensus, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!", has resulted in either crude pastiche or grotesque reinvention, appealing to fewer people each time. Consider how Doctor Doom was once regarded as one of the greatest comic book villains, the inspiration for Darth Vader, even - yet his portrayals on film have cast him as a roadshow also-ran. Sailor Moon could beat him up.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Ducktales DuckGossip

This news is more apropos of Gossip Gerty, but it's Ducktales news! And Darkwing Duck - related! And Kim Possible - related, if you're a fan of that show. I couldn't decide which picture should headline this post: Gossip Gerty from the Batman movies, as played by Bob Kane's widow Elizabeth Sanders, a cover image from Topolino homaging The Simpsons Movie, or Magica de Spell as a fortune teller..the last one sounds right...or maybe a picture foreshadowing something...

Last month, I read a comment on artist James Silvani's Facebook page reacting to a rumor that the relaunched Darkwing Duck comic book from Joe Books has been postponed due to development on the new Ducktales TV series airing on DisneyXD in 2017. That's not been confirmed, but news about the book has been nonexistent for some time now...

Then, last week, Jim Hill of Jim Hill Media - the valuable Gossip Gerty of all things regarding all things Disney - was interviewed at The Daily Disney Blog Podcast on Stitcher. He revealed a few tantalizing tidbits he had learned at this year's San Diego ComicCon:

The new Ducktales series WILL be animated in CG : That's a blow to fans who were hoping the new episodes would stay consistent by sticking to traditional hand-drawn animation  (albeit, scanned & digitally rendered by computer; animation studios haven't used celluloid pages - "cells" in over a decade), so we'll have to wait and see if Scrooge McDuck & co.'s CG designs will resemble episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or The Garfield Show. We HAVE seen Scrooge in cg before..and better cg depictions of McDuck on Deviantart...I have no problem with this new long as it feels like these are the same characters and not knock-offs, the way longtime duck fans reacted to watching Quack Michael Barrier's words, when he reviewed Looney Tunes Back In Action: "They might as well be djinn!"

Alan Burnett or Paul Dini may be working on the show: Hill was being cryptic here, saying that development/production hasn't been moving as fast as desired, so..."a writer" from Batman: The Animated Series has been brought in to help out with the process. My guess is between Dini and Burnett; Dini has been doing a lot of work for Marvel Studios TV cartoons, while Burnett's past credits include working on the original Ducktales TV series during its later seasons. Hill didn't want to name names, but my guess is Dini, because he's there, doing work for them. I actually think Burnett would be the better choice.

A "Disney Afternoon"-themed expansion pack for "Disney Infinity" consideration: I don't own the Disney Infinity video game, but those statues/figurines used as game pieces that are scanned into the game look awesome. Hill revealed that if the new Ducktales CG series is a hit, then ...wheels will be set in motion. The current trend at Disney these days is...glancing at old properties and considering new ways to dust them off, as opposed to films based on theme park rides. They're doing a live-action adaptation of The Sword In The Stone, a remake of Pete's Dragon...the creators of Kim Possible pitched a CG reboot of the series that could be greenlit if Ducktales is a hit. Contingent on the show's success, the game will feature an expansion pack following the Star Wars expansion that's debuting in time for Christmas.

I remember Pete's Dragon was one of a handful of Disney movies that played in heavy rotation in the 1980s on syndicated television. I recall liking the film - I would have to watch it again to see if I had a different opinion - I remember it being kind-of melancholy at times (too many villains; Jim Dale & Red Buttons as the con men were alright, but Pete's surrogate family of country bumpkins weren't really interesting, even if their "We got a 'bill of sale' r'ight he'ere" song remains permanently ingrained in the back of my head. And Helen Reddy's performance seemed to be out-of-sync with the Petticoat Junction -esque antics, but Elliot the dragon was excellent. I heard he'll get a redesign for the new film, more from Asian dragons than from Don Bluth's influences (seriously, when Don Bluth designs a housecat, he seems to draw them looking miniature mustachioed lions; Elliot looked like a brontosauros with a pink wig).

As for Kim Possible, I'm not a big fan of the show...I thought it pandered to teen trends and focused more to her bumbling sidekick, Ron Stoppable and the villains, Doctor Drakken in particular, as it went on. As with Scrooge McDuck, we've seen what a cg update of this show could look like, thanks to fan art and video games.

And then there's Darkwing Duck...there are subtle nods to the show existing within the Disney Infinity game (his motorcycle, The Ratcatcher, and his signature gas gun have often been spotted), but these tidbits hint very strongly that he might appear in the new Ducktales show..and in CG...

"Gossip is always true." - Clarabell Cow