Thursday, May 23, 2019

On The Shelf: Much ado about Batman

The big news this week is the shocking report that acclaimed writer Tom King is leaving Batman way sooner than he would've liked.

Seems King had a meeting with some higher-ups at WarnerMedia last week, and after revealing later on that he had plans that would change the landscape as far as the Dark Knight was concerned, someone at WarnerMedia wigged, and sent word to DC to pull King off one of their flagship books. King's final issue will be #85, due in the fall. King had hoped he could do 100+ issues, but sales have been falling since last year's wedding swerve, and, as fans have noted, Marvel's recent reboot of one of their franchises as Immortal Hulk got the Green Goliath past the Caped Crusader in terms of sales. That would be another reason for the panic at the corporate level.

Understandably, King has his supporters and detractors, the former wondering if he has to rush the finish of his arc, and he probably will. The detractors have grown since the wedding swerve last July.

At the core of the problem seems to be, predictably, editorial interference. Seems King had pitched one arc in the series, "The War of Jokes & Riddles", to be released separate from the regular book, but publisher Dan DiDio, proving once again to be a little off-center in terms of common sense, decided it would be part of the regular book. That it was eventually released in trade paperback is a moot point, as it would have either way.

Bat-group editor Jamie S. Rich, a former "letterhack" from back in the day, and who came over from Dark Horse to work at DC, may have some explaining to do.....
In 1983, DC decided that Batman would leave the Justice League of America, and form his own team. In effect, Batman & The Outsiders was launched as a back-door pilot in the final issue--at that time---of The Brave & The Bold. Ultimately, however, Batman would be moved back to the Justice League, as creative directions changed on both books.

More than 35 years and a few iterations later, Batman & The Outsiders is back, even more blatantly a part of the Bat-line than before. Original team members Black Lightning & Katana are back, but now tasked to mentor two of Batman's younger proteges, Orphan (Cassandra Cain, who previously had been Batgirl 20 years ago) and The Signal (Duke Thomas, a recent addition to the Bat-family) in the field.

Black Lightning's creator,----and fellow blogger----Tony Isabella, isn't too thrilled with the use of Black Lightning, seeing as how DC has refused to green-light any more solo series for the character in the wake of the success of his CW series, which will return for its 3rd season in October. Seems sales on last year's "Cold Dead Hands" miniseries, outside of the home district, where I couldn't get my hands on a copy of any issue, weren't that great, and after all the work that had been done to mend fences between Isabella and DC after years of bad feelings, it seems to have been undone by editorial or corporate decision making.

Digression over. The new Outsiders picks up plot threads from a prequel that ran in Detective Comics, also last year, written by Bryan Edward Hill, with some nice retro artwork by Dexter Soy to complement the mood du jour. However, since corporate feels the need to appease the fanboys in the audience by sticking with the grim-dark atmosphere of the Bat-books, it does this series no favors to include it in the Year of The Villain event, beginning in issue 3. While I may be tempted to pick up a trade or two to catch up, I don't see the long term benefit of this book.

Rating: C-.
Most of us get it by now. DC wants to rewrite Bat-history by deciding that Selina (Catwoman) Kyle was Bruce Wayne's true love all along, such that a new young adult graphic novel aimed at young women follows the idea presented on the now-concluded Gotham series that Bruce & Selina met as kids, not as adults.

"Under The Moon", a DC Ink graphic novel, offers a peek into Selina's childhood in this new reality. The artwork is age appropriate, and, yes, there's an appearance by young Bruce Wayne. If you're an old school traditionalist like me, this is not for you, unless you reconcile yourself to the fact that DC's current regime wants to grow & broaden its audience by any means necessary.

Bear in mind this obsession with The Bat & The Cat has made Vicki Vale, among others, an afterthought. And whatever became of Vicki in this modern era, anyway?

Rating: B.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

What Might've Been: McKeever & The Colonel (1962)

Four Star's track record with comedies wasn't that good. No matter what they tried, it turned out that comedy wasn't their forte at all.

One such example of a good idea that went nowhere was 1962's McKeever & The Colonel, one of two service comedies Four Star sold to NBC, the other being Dean Jones' Ensign O'Toole.

McKeever, however, was set at a military academy, where the plots were as much about the faculty as the students themselves. Allyn Joslyn was the Colonel in the title, matching wits with Cadet McKeever (Scott Lane), whom the producers sought to present as a juvenile knockoff of Phil Silvers' Sgt. Bilko. Jackie Coogan, two years before The Addams Family, was sympathetic Sgt. Barnes, the central figure in the episode, "Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow". Cast member John Eimen has a YouTube channel, from which we get this video:

Coogan & Joslyn would work together again on Addams Family, where Joslyn appeared frequently in a supporting role.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Musical Interlude: Massachusetts (1973)

Call it Bee Gees Unplugged.

The Gibb brothers--Barry, Robin, & Maurice--were on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in March 1973, and, with Barry playing an acoustic guitar, performed their 1967 hit, "Massachusetts". Enjoy.

Sports this 'n' that

Entering play Monday, the Mets had dropped five straight, including getting swept by the last place Miami Marlins, who collected a receipt after the Mets had beaten them five times this season.

Predictably, New York tabloid media and talk radio, dubbed "The Valley of The Stupid" by New York Daily News media columnist Bob Raissman, decided to vent, and declared second year manager Mickey Calloway's job is in jeopardy.

First year GM and former agent Brodie Van Wagenen gave Calloway the dreaded vote of confidence on Monday afternoon, hours before the Mets dispatched fourth place Washington. The love affair is over between Van Wagenen and the team's online fan base, and their perception is that owner Fred Wilpon and his son, Jeff, are the most inept owners the team has had, operating on the cheap. Remember, they're still digging out of the mess created by scam artist Bernard Madoff a few years ago, so the Wilpons would rather go cheap than find the right tools (players) to appease the fan base.

Free agent pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel are still out there because their agents refused to budge on contract terms. Kimbrel, in particular, collected a World Series ring with Boston last year, and Keuchel did the same a year earlier with Houston. The free agent market isn't as strong as it used to be as more owners are preferring to take greater investments on home-grown players, which Keuchel was with Houston.

The Mets haven't been this cheap since the infamous M. Donald Grant was GM in the 70's. They opted to trade for Wilmer Font, getting him from Tampa Bay a couple of weeks back for cash.

Somewhere, Jack Benny is smiling.
So War of Will won the Preakness on Saturday, recovering from the Kentucky Derby debacle two weeks earlier. However, what folks wanted to talk about was the fact that Bodexpress dumped jockey John Velazquez at the start, and actually led much of the way. Even if he won, it wouldn't have counted because he ran free without a rider, and that's a big no-no, or, neigh, in racing.
Japan gave us Godzilla, who became a pop culture icon in both countries, as well as everywhere else, immortalized in song by the Blue Oyster Cult in the 70's.

Unfortunately, a bigger menace to pop culture is headed their way.

President Trump is heading to Japan later this week to meet with new emperor Naruhito, and is interested in attending the finals of a sumo wrestling championship. Trump, a close friend of WWE CEO/Chairman Vince McMahon, is just piquing his curiosity, but he'll soon find that sumo wrestling is serious business.

We can only hope he doesn't go full Ugly American in Tokyo.
Speaking of WWE, while the Monday Night Raw troupe was in town last night at Times-Union Center, McMahon is proving again and again that he doesn't have clue one about solving the ratings problems plaguing his company.

Former champ Brock Lesnar returned Sunday, and was a surprise entrant in the men's Money in The Bank ladder match. The fact that he won, barely doing anything, was mostly for shock value, and a vain attempt at juicing ratings, which were likely to tank opposite the NBA playoffs last night.

The nature of Lesnar's contract with WWE, signed seven years ago, allows him to pick and choose when he appears at his leisure, and thus is not beholden to McMahon as everyone else is, and that is wrong. Fans have complained about Lesnar winning championships and defending when he feels like it, and rejoiced when he dropped the Universal title to Seth Rollins last month at Wrestlemania.

Look, I get that McMahon is seven levels of desperate for ratings here, but his complacency the last few years has created a feeling of staleness with the product. The promo he and his family cut a week before Christmas, promising changes? Empty lip service, five months later. The product conforms to his out of date, myopic vision. Son-in-law Paul "Triple H" Levesque, curator of NXT, the company's developmental brand, has, in the eyes of fans, more on the ball than McMahon, who will be 74 after Summerslam in August.

However, the company is revisiting the Attitude Era of the late 90's and early '00's as much as possible lately, and it's not helping.

Shane McMahon turned heel back in March, and is playing the spoiled, entitled bully, just as he did at various times between 1998-2001. The once beloved cult favorite is bordering on being overexposed, but his father doesn't care.

Last night, a new title, the 24/7 championship, merely the old hardcore title given a new, 21st century look, was introduced. The hardcore title, a knock on ECW, was popular with fans, and McMahon is looking to recapture the vibe of nearly 20 years ago.

What does this tell us? For all the fresh ideas being submitted to McMahon by his creative staff, he rejects them in favor of older concepts, most of which don't really fit anymore. To say he's stuck in the past would be a gross understatement.

And then, there is the spectre of the nascent All Elite Wrestling, founded by Matt & Nick Jackson (The Young Bucks) and wrestler-actor Cody Runnels, which will have Double or Nothing taking place Saturday in Las Vegas, with a TV deal with TNT to kick in come October, after Smackdown changes networks and nights, from Tuesdays on USA to Fridays on Fox. If AEW delivers a superior product on Saturday night, that will give them much needed momentum, publicity, and create something McMahon hasn't seen in 18 years. A viable threat to his dominance of the business. Cody's father, the late Dusty Rhodes, not only was a top star with the NWA in the 80's, but he also worked behind the scenes on their television programs.

In that respect, Cody has something in common with Levesque. Both are old school at their cores. You can bet that Levesque, who has created a back to basics approach with NXT (coming to Albany in August at the Capital Center, according to early reports), and wants to do the same with the main WWE roster, will be watching AEW closely. And quietly cheering for Cody.

Monday, May 20, 2019

What Might've Been: The Famous Teddy Z (1989)

CBS had the hype machine rolling full steam 30 years ago to herald the debut of The Famous Teddy Z, from WKRP in Cincinnati creator Hugh Wilson, and based on the real-life story of an agent who went to work for Hollywood legend Marlon Brando.

Jon Cryer, at the time known for having appeared in John Hughes' "Sixteen Candles", had the title role as the novice agent. Today, Jon just finished the current season of Supergirl as master villain Lex Luthor, and will return next season at some point.

No episodes are available online at present, but we do have an intro:

Five unaired episodes later surfaced on cable, first on Comedy Central, then Trio.

No rating.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Musical Interlude: He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother (1969-75)

From the British children's variety show, Supersonic, comes the Hollies, revisiting 1969's "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother", which was covered by the Osmond Brothers in 1970. This clip is reportedly from 1975.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Tales of The Invisible Kingdom (Joyce Meyer @ Times-Union Center, 5/17/19)

Evangelist Joyce Meyer returned to the Times-Union Center tonight to begin a two-day conference. The general topic, which will encompass all three teaching sessions in the space of a 24 hour period, is "The Invisible Kingdom".

With no admission charge, you'd think the T-U Center would open the upper bowl, considering the lower bowl and the floor were almost full. Didn't happen. Their loss.

Meyer's ministry has been active for more than four decades, and tonight's program was being recorded for her syndicated television show, Enjoying Everyday Life, for future broadcast. She read passages from the Gospels of Matthew & John, and from 1 Corinthians (pronounced First Corinthians). She mixed scriptures with humorous ancedotes about her life and family. She also shared her own personal issues with sexual abuse at the hands of her father in her youth. Those issues have led to the formation of Project GRL (Guide-Restore-Love), which was represented with a video early in the evening.

Singer-songwriter Kari Jobe opened and closed the program, leading off with one of her earlier hits, "Forever". It just so happens that there's a concert clip from an earlier tour......

A reading of "How Great Thou Art" bled into Cody Carnes (no relation to 80's star Kim Carnes--I think) and one of his hits, "Nothing Else". If anything, the man sounds like he was influenced by Michael W. Smith. Their voices are similar.

The atmosphere in the T-U Center was electric. Pre-program, they played a parody of movie trailers to promote some of Meyer's merchandise. The narrative was so over the top, you couldn't help but laugh.

"The Invisible Kingdom" continues with part 2 Saturday at 9:30 am. The conclusion comes four hours later. The reason it's just two days? The WNBA will be in town on Sunday.