Monday, June 30, 2008


From the Hamtramck Idea Men I have to admit that the first issue of this took me back before I cracked the cover.
It would have been the 80's and the coolest store in Kalamazoo was Boogie Records. A combination record store/head shop Boogie also sold it's fair share of underground comics. Having grown up on Marvel and DC in my youth and thinking that Vampirella was pretty risque, imagine my surprise when I discovered the joy of underground comics. Artist George McVey fills this puppy with eye grabbing visuals and stories that range from zombie bikers to cannibalistic elves. The stories are also a throwback to those underground comix of yesteryear. The artwork is amazingly detailed and any true fan of comix needs to track one of these down. Go here to make sure the creators get the cash in their pockets.
Then I got excited and immediately went to issue 2.

Yeah, that one didn't work so well. From the badly done mixed media cover to some truly amateurish art in the first story, this issue is somewhat of a letdown. The only saving grace is the story The Billion Dollar Caveman, but that's only because of the phenomenal artwork of George McVey. Maybe they could let him just do all the art from now on? I would buy it if I had that assurance.
So, Issue One was superb and very well done. Issue Two was uneven at best with the high point being Mr. McVey.
Oh, and one other thing. I have never been a fan of prose stories in comic books. Prose goes with prose and comics belong with comics. That's just the way it is. Personal pet peeve of ye olde editor so, take that for what it's worth.
I'm out.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Middleman

Okay, call me ignorant, but I had no idea that there was this comic book called The Middleman. It seems that he fights crime, but doesn't go for the flash. He makes it all seem rather mundane while he fights things like Gorillas with aspirations to becoming Scarface. Sound weird? Yeah, that's because it is.. Anyway, Disney has made a new series based on the comic and what can I say? I think this is fantastic! It has that retro, campy comic booky feel to it without coming across as too cloying. The man character is your clean cut, all American kind of guy who recruits Wendy Watson (played by the incredibly cute Natalie Morales)to help him fight crime. All Wendy wants to do is paint and work as a temp. Now, she has to fight crime, but it does free up some time to paint.
For a pilot episode this gave us quite a lot of information in an hour of television. We did get the crazed gorilla story I mentioned before along with setting up all the main characters for the series. My favorite thing would have to be all the in jokes. There are pop culture references everywhere. They even do a black and white montage cribbed from The Avengers. Natalie Morales is no Diana Rigg, but I thought it was great.
The show is perfect and it plays on ABC Family Network. One thing I would have changed from the get go. Yeah, there's this newscaster that is always popping up on NBC, primarily The Today Show and her name is Natalie Morales. She's had the name in the spotlight for a while and it might have behooved the producers of the show to get our girl in the series to change or tweak her name. Makes for a difficult time to do Google searches for me to find a decent image to accompany this review.
The Middleman, Monday nights at 8PM. I recommend you watch it.

Friday, June 6, 2008


Hollywood tradition dictates that an Academy Award nomination begets lucrative offer after offer, and the nominee usually reaps the immediate seven-figure benefits. But sometimes, boyhood dreams take precedence.

Buoyed by his Oscar nod for scripting “A History of Violence,” Josh Olson has become one of the most sought-after writers in Hollywood. But amidst the offers following his nomination came the opportunity to pen a chapter of “Batman Gotham Knight” – and that was an offer simply too tempting to resist. The result is an impressive opening segment to the film that not only arrests the imagination with visually stunning perspectives of Batman, but sets the thematic tone for the entire six-chapter film.

In the segment, entitled “Have I Got a Story for You,” Olson tells the story of how chance encounters with Batman by a group of street-wise youngsters leave each kid with a very different impression of the Dark Knight.

Since “A History of Violence,” for which he was also nominated for the British Academy Award, the Writer's Guild Award, the Edgar and the USC Scriptor award, Olson has been busy drafting screenplays for both film and television. Olson has adapted the Dennis Lehane short story "Until Gwen" and will be directing the project himself. He worked on a draft of “Halo” for Peter Jackson, and is currently adapting L. Frank Baum's “Oz” books for Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures.

Olson will join fellow “Batman Gotham Knight” writers Brian Azzarello, Greg Rucka and Alan Burnett, along with executive producer Bruce Timm, on the panel following the film’s premiere at Wizard World Chicago on June 28. “Batman Gotham Knight” will arrive July 8, 2008 on DVD and Blu-Ray disc, and will also be available that day On Demand via digital cable and for download through broadband sites.

Olson strode off the yellow brick road for a short discussion of his role in the creation of “Batman Gotham Knight,” his amusement over 1960s Batman action verbiage, and his passion for a good, old-fashioned decapitation.

Without further ado, the Q&A with Josh Olson …

You have arguably the most visually diverse chapter in the film. How did you communicate the direction in your script for your variety of Batman looks, and how detailed did you go?

Josh Olson answers:
My feeling was that I’d never worked in animation before, so if I was going to write a cartoon, I wanted it to BE a cartoon. I tried to come up with something that would be as visually entertaining as possible. Having worked on film crews in the art departments and around the digital effects guys, I know the best people for creating those visuals are the people that actually do it. So I was specific in relation to the story – I described a creature that grows out of shadows, a creature that is more bat than man, things like that. But I didn’t get into too much detail because I wanted the directors and designers to knock themselves out. The animators got the chance to go nuts – and with them, and for this, nothing is too wild.

Are they any particular moments in your segment that exceeded your vision?

Josh Olson answers:
Honestly, I love them all, but there are some little flourishes that the director incorporated that really make me happy. In the robot batman segment, I love the way Batman hops off the building, and the way he sort of skids when he’s turning around. There’s a wonderful sense of whimsy in that direction that I really love.

Question: Most folks leverage an Academy Award nomination into seven-figure deals, but you opted to draft one-sixth of an animated direct-to-DVD? What were you thinking?

Josh Olson answers:
I’m a comics kid going way back, and we’re talking about my favorite character. I got offered a lot of jobs after Violence, but I’m picky. I have to really love the subject to write it. You’re supposed to take your big money-making job right after you get a nomination, but I took this Batman project because it was an absolute no-brainer. You don’t buy a house off this, but I was absolutely thrilled to do it. I got the chance to write the cartoon I would have wanted to see as a kid, and would still be entertained by today as an adult. I always wanted to write Batman – and when Chris Nolan is done with them, I’m ready.

Question: Did you take a different approach to writing for animation than you normally take to live-action?

Josh Olson answers:
This is so much more about the visual, and you have to be keyed into that. You have to justify the medium you’re working in – in other words, it’s animated for a reason. It’s not an arbitrary choice. So I had to do something that justified that medium, and this one definitely does.

Is there anything in your segment that we might not see if we weren’t looking for it?

Josh Olson answers:
There are all sorts of little in-jokes. When the girl is describing the fight sequence, and she’s saying “biff!!!” and “pow!!” -- that’s my little tribute to the on-screen sound effects from the old Batman television show. But one of the words they had on screen back then was “flrbbbb!” – that drove me nuts as a kid. That’s not a sound effect! So I had to throw that in.

As a nod to Chris Nolan and “Memento,” I thought it would be fun to approach this by telling the story backwards. So you’ll notice that each time the villain appears, he seems to be gaining weapons instead of losing them. That was an intentional nod to Chris Nolan’s film, and I love playing with that type of structure.

Where did the inspiration for your segment initiate, and how did that play into your approach?

Josh Olson answers
The idea that was pitched reminded me of a great old 1970s Batman comic – Dick Giordano drew it, but it could have been Jim Aparo – that was a short story about three kids, each of whom saying what they thought Batman looked like. I remembered there was also an animated version that had three kids describing him in different iterations. Now you get a third story, so it becomes a legitimate genre. I always loved that story – kids sitting around a campfire talking about Batman, and he shows up. I thought it would be fun to make it more active.

How did you decide on the street slang the kids used in describing their brushes with Batman?

Josh Olson answers:
That was tough because I didn’t want it to be completely locked into contemporary slang. I used some writer’s tricks to cover up the fact that I’m way too old to know how kids are talking today. I wanted it to be timeless and a little futuristic, so I used classic street kid slang tossed in with contemporary slang. I thought that was it would become clear that this was not set yesterday – it would be more likely take place tomorrow or the day after, at the latest.

Was there anything you definitely wanted to include that you’re particularly proud made it into the final film?

Josh Olson answers:
Just because it’s a cartoon, and because of the nature of the story, I wanted to do the one thing you’d never see in a Batman segment: a decapitation. I was so happy they let me keep it. I thought, “I’ve gotta get it in there.” The director did such a beautiful job. Batman never kills anyone. I wanted to have him do something really grotesquely inappropriate, and yet get the point across that Batman never kills. That was fun … very dark fun.

So, ultimately, how did you feel about your segment and the overall film?

Josh Olson answers:
It’s fun – really visually pleasing. It was the best version I could possibly hope to see. I’ve never seen a movie that so honored the script – it’s up there word-for-word, perfectly translated, and it’s really exciting to see that it worked. I’m a huge fan of this film – the visions of Batman are amazing, and the visuals are incredible. I especially enjoyed Alan Burnett’s segment – there’s a visual of Deadshot on the Ferris wheel with these balloons and fireworks – it is really amazing. This project was an absolute blast.