When Barry Met Ollie

The CW’s Flash/Arrow crossover last week was loads of fun.

Grant Gustin as The Flash and Stephen Amell as The Arrow standing together in a street scene facing opposite directions
Still from The Flash 1.08 “Flash vs. Arrow” © 2014 CW. Photo: Diyah Perra.

I’d like to get to full-on reviews of both shows this season, but my inner 6-year-old demands that my adult self acknowledge this super-cool undertaking now. Just seeing
a green arrow slice through The Flash’s usual title sequence on Tuesday night and a lightning bolt flash through Arrow’s on Wednesday put a big, goofy grin on my face.

A Bird in Hand

I ran a history of Robin in Comicology Vol. II #1 (Spring 2000).

Large figure of the young original Robin against a cityscape with smaller figures of Dick Grayson as Nightwing, Carrie Kelley as Robin, and Tim Drake as Robin around him
Art to cover of Comicology Vol. II #1 © 2000 Bruce Timm. Characters depicted
are trademarks of DC Comics. Comicology is a trademark of Harbor Studios.

What saw publication was an abridged version — long story and lingering frustration
— but a fuller piece titled “Six Decades of Richard Grayson” went up on the magazine’s website. Has anyone reading this by chance saved the text of that?

Make Like a Tree

Groot might have been the breakout star of this past summer. I suppose to a broader extent he’s one half of it — er, them — as part of a tandem with his pal Rocket. Or perhaps the honor goes to the entire headlining quintet of Guardians of the Galaxy.

Giant tree creature terrorizing a city block, wooden tendrils everywhere -- Groot, the Monster from Planet X
Cover of Tales to Astonish #13 [digital] © 1960 and Groot TM Marvel
Comics. Pencils: Jack Kirby. Inks: Steve Ditko. Colors: Stan
Goldberg. Letters: Artie Simek. Script: Stan Lee.

Bowled Over

Winston, a small gray-and-white terrier, at a food bowl full of kibble
Screencap © 2014 Disney Enterprises.

The new animated Disney feature Big Hero 6 opens this weekend. I’m not being insensitive to the cost of movie tickets when I say the six-minute animated short that precedes it, “Feast”, is worth the price of admission all by itself.

Panel to Frame

My reviews of Fox’s Gotham and The CW’s newly expanding Arrow/Flash
universe would be up by now had I not started tinkering with images to accompany them. Which is how these happened.

Superman heaving a car over his head in 'Superman Returns' in homage to cover of 'Action Comics' #1, part of which is overlaid onto the movie still
Inset: Detail of cover to Action Comics #1 © 1938 DC Comics.
Photo: Still from Superman Returns © 2006 Warner Bros. Entertainment.

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Live-Action Comics

A young man with dark hair facing The Flash and Green Arrow in the doorway of, per caption, 'the Bruce Wayne mansion ... in Gotham City'

I’ve been trying for a while to finish a big piece on the recent flood of comics
being adapted for television and film
. One problem has been that I keep writing too much about a specific movie or show and then spinning that material off into its own review. The silver lining is that the flood is only picking up pace — so even as I constantly kick the metaphorical can down the road there’ll be no shortage of hooks
to keep the subject current.

Mash Game

Among the first spec pieces I wrote in an attempt to broaden my fledgling freelance career outside the comics industry after college was a short goof for a film magazine that revolved around what we now call mashups.

mock DVD case for 'Tarzan of the Planet of the Apes' featuring Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan with ape face looming in background

I hope to find it in my old, boxed-up files some day. While I can’t remember every mashup it contained, I’m pretty sure Tarzan of the Planet of the Apes was not one of them — even though it fit the premise of merging titles without adding anything new, and even though Tarzan of the Apes + Planet of the Apes is so obvious and pure in both its simplicity and its potential.

Gotham City 49 Cents

The United States Postal Service announced this past week that it would be releasing
a set of Batman stamps to commemorate the character’s 75th anniversary.

Stamp of Batman swinging on rope and waving / Underneath picture it reads Batman - Forever - USA, with line through Forever to invalidate use as postage

As with most stamps now, they’re self-adhesive — so Batman still can’t be licked.

Oliver and Company

Cookie Monster and John Oliver at news desk in suits

I praised the pleasant surprise that was John Oliver’s hosting of The Daily Show
when Jon Stewart took a sabbatical last summer. And I was not alone. Many TV critics predicted that Oliver would be promoted from correspondent to host of his own show — probably someplace other than Comedy Central, since a third half-hour* of satirical news and punditry there wasn’t likely. That someplace turned out to be HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

Plankwalk Empire

Last Thursday was International “Talk Like a Pirate” Day, and Comedy Central’s @Midnight celebrated with an appropriate Hashtag Wars segment [bad link] . As current as it is, the show tapes a little while before it actually airs to allow for editing, so the producers post the subject of each night’s segment on Twitter at about 11:30 p.m. ET and invite fans to join the fun early. My old buddy and occasional Blam’s Blog commenter Arben noticed the night’s subject, liked it, and gave me a heads-up so that I could brainstorm along with him, then graciously let me to add some of his entries to mine for publication here for a total of our...

Top Twelve Pirate TV Shows

12. The Plunder Years

11. One and a Half Legs

10. So You Think You Can Penzance

9. The Avast-Me-Hearty Boys

8. Doubloony Tunes

Huston, We Have Amalgam

Just imagine Humphrey Bogart playing Sam Spade as Sam Wilson — a 1941 version
of Sam Wilson, private eye turned Captain America’s unofficial and unorthodox partner.

Fake movie poster in vintage style: Warner Bros. and Republic Present / Humphrey Bogart / Dick Purcell / with Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, and Gladys George / a John Huston film / Captain America and the Maltese Falcon

That’s what I did in this mockup for the mashup Captain America and the Maltese Falcon. Ever since brainstorming the title a couple of years ago for a hashtag game on Twitter, I’ve found its Reese’s Peanut-Butter Cup potential hard to shake.

Don Pardo 1918-2014

Don Pardo at microphone
Photo: Al Levine for NBC © 1982.

What’s most surprising about Don Pardo’s passing on Monday is either half of
this sentence taken with the other: He was 96 and still working as the primary voice
of Saturday Night Live.

Lauren Bacall 1924-2014

Lauren Bacall standing by a piano as musicians and others look on
Cropped image from To Have and Have Not © 1944 Warner Bros. Pictures.

This post is currently down for maintenance.

Robin Williams 1951-2014

That was a really difficult post title to type.

Robin Williams as Mork
Original photo: Jim Britt for ABC © 1978.

I was introduced to Robin Williams, who died on Monday at 63, as Mork from Ork
— first on Happy Days; then, of course, on Mork & Mindy. Although I’m two decades younger, I aged with him, through his stand-up and dramatic roles and talk-show appearances and film comedies and, just this past year, his return to network TV.

Which I think is a big part of why his death hits so hard.

Mr., Mrs., Missing

As I think I’ve said here before, I prefer to have a nice buffer between reading books
and watching the movies on which they’re based — with the book, ideally, coming first.

The film adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is scheduled to open in early October, so I’m glad to have finished the novel last week. I don’t want to spoil even a bit of it for those who haven’t, but I will say that it’s both a page-turner of a mystery and a surprisingly dark, incisive look at domestic partnership.

While I’m not sure whether the film attempts to evoke the book’s structure, I suspect
by dint of that alone they’ll be different enough works that you could pick up the book in the next few weeks and have the movie feel like its own thing when it rolls out. I’m still chewing on the controversial ending; I recommend the book, though, and hope to read Flynn’s previous novels sometime.

Related: A Great Escape Grit Expectations Forest Gumption


I’ve had a few posts about Batman in the works — some by coincidence; some
because of his belated 75th birthday hoopla.

Batman, in an early version of his familiar outfit, on a rooftop as a gangster exclaims 'The Bat-Man!!!'
Panel from “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate” in Detective Comics #27 © 1939 DC
Comics. Script: Bill Finger. Pencils, Inks, Letters: Bob Kane. Colors: Unknown.

Which I’m kind-of resisting. Batman debuted (as “The Bat-Man!”) at the hands of
Bob Kane and Bill Finger in Detective Comics #27, dated May 1939 but on sale in April of that year. Given how slow DC Comics was to roll out logos and other celebratory stuff for Superman’s diamond jubilee in 2013 — not to mention the whole company’s a few years before that — I shouldn’t be surprised that today, July 23rd, was designated by DC as Batman Day.

The Fourth Grows Weak

Charts showing decline in box-office gross and IMDB user ratings for first through fourth films in 'Jaws' and 'Superman' franchises

Kate Willaert, creator of a bunch of cool stuff over at her Uncool Artblog no matter what the name says, has designed an infographic charting IMDB user ratings and domestic theatrical gross (adjusted for inflation) across movie quadrilogies — film series that have produced at least four installments. The diminishing returns come as no surprise, although there are exceptions to that general rule. Film series sampled aren’t nearly as numerous as those used in BoxOfficeQuant’s sequel map, which I shared a few years ago, but of course even in our current cinematic climate there are plenty more franchises with just one or two follow-ups than three or more.

Related: The A Team Star Trek Too After-Math

Crazy Talk

Nothing against Heath Ledger or Cesar Romero, who each took an indelible turn as The Joker, but for me the animated incarnation voiced by Mark Hammill is the definitive screen version of Batman’s nemesis. In a clip from a one-on-one interview during a recent Star Wars Weekend at Walt Disney World, Hammill gives the dialogue of Paul Dini some mad love after treating the audience to an improvised exchange between Gotham’s Clown Prince of Crime and Luke Skywalker.

Mark Hammill laughing maniacally as he voices The Joker

Related: If You Meta the Batman, Kill the Batman R2 Details Dinner on ME

O Tannin Bomb

Per a report on 6ABC’s website, “The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is warning consumers about exploding bottles of wine.” Upon further reading, Indigenous Selections Prosecco Brut 2013 is the one and only brand/vintage in question, with buyers directed to dispose of their puchases immediately.

For those of you wondering where the grapes of wrath are stored...

Related: A-Ha Moment Oh Hell No Board Now

Long Day’s Journey into Mystery

Watching the Tony Awards telecast last Sunday, I found myself coming up with
comics-related twists on the titles of various plays and musicals. The game continued for several days until my list grew long enough to split into two — one for Marvel, one for DC (last post) — even after paring down by about half. Some entries are more accessible to non-comics-reading folks than others; the only rule was passing over titles that wouldn’t need to be changed at all, such as The Iceman Cometh or Beauty and
The Beast

Now take your seats for my...

Top Twenty Marvel Comics Broadway Mashups

20. You’re a Mole Man, Charlie Brown

19. Dirty Rotten Fandral

18. Jess Is the Spider-Woman

17. Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Hulk

16. Thoroughly Modeled Millie

15. Lady Sif at Emerson’s Bar & Grill

14. Mandarin of La Mancha

13. Twelve Angry X-Men

12. A Slim Summers Night’s Dream

11. Who’s Afraid of Virginia, Wolverine?

A Swamp Thing Happened
on the Way to the Forum

Watching the Tony Awards telecast last Sunday, I found myself coming up with
comics-related twists on the titles of various plays and musicals. The game continued for several days until my list grew long enough to split into two — one for DC, one for Marvel (next post) — even after paring down by about half. Some entries are more accessible to non-comics-reading folks than others; the only rule was passing over titles that wouldn’t need to be changed at all, such as Man and Superman.

Now take your seats for my...

Top Twenty DC Comics Broadway Mashups

20. Riddler on the Roof

19. My Fair Lady Blackhawk

18. Ain’t Mister Mxyzptlk

17. Captain Carrot and His Amazing Technicolor Zoo Crew

16. The Justice League of American Buffalos

15. Koriand'rolanus

14. Same Time, One Year Later

13. Glengarry Pete Ross

12. Bizarro #1 Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Next

11. Oedipus Rex Mason

News of Future Posts

You might have noticed that content around here has been sparse to nonexistent

Campbell's Bean with Bacon soup can against detail of X-Men #141 cover, part 1 of Days of Future Past, in spotlight against wanted poster on brick wall

The reasons for this are, unfortunately, manifold. I spent much of last year setting
up Adventures in Comicology, a website meant to archive my past writing on comics and steadily stream new material to boot. Posting here on Blam’s Blog in 2013 fell markedly in number from previous annual totals — just under one flipping half of 2012’s high-water mark — and even though I’m working to resume the flow this week I’ve only managed to reach a baker’s dozen posts for 2014 thus far. I’d honestly be fine with that if technical problems, along with the inability to properly deal with those problems due to other life stuff, hadn’t ground progress on Comicology and related projects to a halt. While it’s bad enough simply not being able to put in as much time and effort as I’d like, it’s way more frustrating to put in considerable time and effort
yet have so little to show.

More pressing matters will continue to demand my attention in the short term, but hopefully by summer’s end you’ll see activity pick up here a bit. Another, more detailed status update on all things me will be along when that happens.

Cover detail from X-Men #141 © 1981 Marvel Comics.

Cynicalman Gets Schooled

One stick figure, Stupid Boy, exchanging hellos with another, Cynicalman
Panel © 2014 and Cynicalman ® Matt Feazell.

I’ve guest-written a strip for Matt Feazell that just went live at the Cynicalman website. Episodes don’t get updated online as often as they used to, but I’m still not
sure how long it’ll be there before a new one replaces it and it’s archived for eventual collection. Speaking of which, The Amazing Cynicalman Volumes 1 & 2 — highly recommended; ditto any or all Feazell minicomics you care to grab — are available via that same website. Matt’s been doing hilarious work with astounding economy of line since the days people mailed paper to one another in envelopes. I’m hoping to contribute more gags in the future... like he needs my help.

Related: A-Ha Moment This Is Going to Hurt
You More than It Hurts Me
Miley at Twerk

Miley at Twerk

An Emoticomic
(Tilt your head to the left or your screen to the right...
or see the text captured as an image and rotated below.)




The Mother Load

Josh Radnor as Ted Mosby smiling at Cristin Milioti as the Mother, Tracy McConnell, under a yellow umbrella
Photo from How I Met Your Mother Ep. 9.24 (finale) © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox.

This post is currently down for maintenance.

Paper Chace

Covers to volumes 1 through 4 of Queen and Country Definitive Editions, each with black-&-white close-ups of main character with trade dress in orange, blue, red, and green respectively

Rachel Maddow was on Late Night with Seth Myers recently, and to my surprise among the topics they discussed was Greg Rucka’s Queen and Country.

Suit Up

Profile view of Grant Gustin in the Flash cowl/mask/helmet with lightning bolts over ears

We got a (nearly) full look today at the suit Grant Gustin will be wearing as Barry
Allen in the upcoming CW Flash series.

Feed Me Rewrite!

I was finally successful this year in not writing about the Oscars before or after the telecast. The bad news is that this wasn’t due purely to willpower; I’ve been sitting on this post for a while with the aim of running it on, as they say, Movies’ Biggest Night, but I couldn’t.

Sometime last year I came up with a couple of the following lines and realized that the concept would make a fun hashtag game. What you do is take a reasonably well-known quote from books or films and substitute one or two words with food. I’m very rarely on Twitter anymore, though, so I ended up just brainstorming a bit and setting the list aside to run on the blog as my...

Top Twenty Supermarket Lines of Dialogue

20. “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my cold cuts.”

19. “Nobody puts baked beans in a corner.”

18. “Take your stinking pasta off me, you damn dirty apes!”

17. “It was the best of thymes, it was the worst of thymes.”

Harold Ramis 1944-2014

Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and  Ernie Hudson in 'Ghostbusters' firing red and blue streams of energy from their proton-pack guns
Ghostbusters screencap © 1984 Columbia Pictures.

The year is 1989. I’m a day-camp counselor for kids 5 to 6 years old. At that age
boys have their favorite whatevers on their lunch boxes, their shirts, their underwear. Ghostbusters was big in our bunk — mostly, I assume, from the animated TV series based on the 1984 movie (Slimer and the Real Ghostbusters) rather than the movie itself. So I chaperone a few boys into the restroom. Two of them stand at the same urinal, pants down, focused on doing what you do. One suddenly exclaims “Don’t cross the streams!” and they crack up so hard it’s a miracle that no mopping was required.

I think Harold Ramis, who died this past Monday at 69, would’ve been proud. Godspeed, ghosts, gophers, and groundhogs be with him.

43 Favorites: #13

Lake Street Dive is my current jam and latest favorite thing. I’ve had their whole discography on repeat in anticipation of today’s release of their new album, Bad Self-Portraits.

Cover to Lake Street Dive album 'Bad Self-Portraits' — members posing stiffly in a drawing room in front of wall adorned with photos of them making goofy faces

The band, whose members met at Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music, consists of Rachael Price (lead vocals), Mike “McDuck” Olson (guitar, trumpet, backing vocals), Bridget Kearney (acoustic bass, backing vocals), and Mike Calabrese (drums, backing vocals).

Yesterday and Today

High crane shot of The Beatles on set of 'The Ed Sullivan Show' with full stage and cameras in view
The Ed Sullivan Show 17.19 photo © 1964 SOFA Entertainment.

I’m a little surprised at how emotional I got watching the Beatles tribute earlier tonight.

A Spoonful of Sucralose

Splenda has been challenged in court for saying that its artificial sweetener is — to quote the ad line — “made from sugar so it tastes like sugar”. At issue is the fact that key molecules have been changed in deriving sucralose from sucrose, with no actual sugar in the result, and that the majority of Splenda is filler supplementing the sucralose.

Tom Hanks as waving, smiling Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as stolid, unimpressed P.L. Travers at Disneyland
Photo: François Duhamel for Walt Disney Pictures © 2013.

Or something. You can go look it up if you want. My point is that Saving Mr.
, Walt Disney Pictures’ current release about the difficult adaptation of P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins books into the eventual classic Disney movie, has roughly the same relationship to the truth as Splenda does to sugar.

His Story

Of all the striking details in March Book One — and there are more than a few —
what I keep coming back to is this: At the age of five, John Lewis began preaching to
his family’s chickens.

Title; protesters with signs; John Lewis and others at a lunch counter

Lewis, an organizer of the March on Washington in 1963 and since 1987 the U.S. Representative for Georgia’s Fifth District, is a great storyteller. March is a great story. I’ve just left those sentences alone after too much time spent considering adjectives other than “great” due to how easy and vague the word is, but it’s apt.

Which Doctor?

Peter Capaldi as new Doctor in blue jacket with red lining turned out, vest underneath, dark slacks, and black Doc Martens, gesturing at camera with serious look
Photo: Steve Brown / BBC © 2014.

The BBC released a promo shot of Peter Capaldi in the outfit he’ll be wearing as the
12th Doctor on Doctor Who last week, and… he reminds me of Doctor Strange.

Myth and Fingerprints

I was thinking recently about my school library in 3rd grade.

Not sure why. It could’ve been the recent news reports on libraries without books — without physical books, anyway; rather, they’re community spaces with computers where users can surf the Internet and check out E-books — that got me remembering how I’d settle down in the stacks in front of the encyclopedias and basically use the references in the article at hand like we use hyperlinks online today.

I have several fond memories, general and specific, of libraries. One suspects many readers do. Those I’ve shared on the blog before include — nestled in a post on TV’s Supernatural — memories of my favorite aisle in this particular library. What brought me to that aisle was books on Greek and Roman mythology, a subject I read about voraciously and to an almost literally exhausting degree. Based on periodic scans of various library and bookstore shelves, I may well have gone through every relevant volume in print. Some books were, from my youthful perspective at least, stuffier than others, a category in which I preferred Edith Hamilton’s Mythology to Bulfinch’s. There were plenty of slim paperbacks and large, illustrated tomes aimed more directly at my age, too, with D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths atop the heap of the latter.