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The Hero Blog!

Telling the truth, whether you want to hear it or not.

Olicity Just Can’t Happen. Here’s Why

Olicity CW Arrow Emily Bett Rickards

The following contains detailed discussion of events that happened in the “Arrow” mid-season finale, “Dark Waters.”  Spoilers follow.

They’re adorable together.  They have wonderful onscreen chemistry.  Everyone wants to see Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak tie the knot someday and live happily ever after.  Unfortunately, this just isn’t destined to be.

Now, please understand this isn’t going to be the “He’s with Black Canary in the comics!” argument.  Yes, for most of their history in the comics, Green Arrow and Black Canary have been an on-again/Off-again item, and eventually got married.  Then the New 52 happened.  In keeping with Dan DiDio’s moratorium against our heroes at DC Comics being able to have any sort of normal life at all, all past relationships were wiped from continuity.  Barry Allen never married Iris West, Oliver and Dinah (Laurel) Lance have never had a romantic history, even the romantic history between Superman and Lois Lane was wiped from existence.  Because of this, the argument that Oliver must end up with Laurel because comics just doesn’t hold water.

The mid-season finale of Arrow, entitled “Dark Waters,” saw fan favorite couple Oliver and Felicity get – finally – engaged.  It then also saw Felicity almost immediately thereafter meet her demise – or at the very least, be severely injured – in an attack by season 4 main villain Damien Darhk.  Maybe Felicity is dead, maybe she’ll pull through, we’ll all find out together in January.  That is, however, irrelevant.

We were teased in the season opener with a funeral.  We aren’t told who died, we only know that it was someone close to Oliver and at least acquainted with Barry “The Flash” Allen – which, just so we’re clear, could be almost any major Arrow character at this point.  My first thought was that it was Detective Lance.  I didn’t think, and still don’t, that Barry looked distraught enough for it to be Felicity, and I don’t see it being Thea or Laurel, and with Lance being revealed to be in cahoots with Darhk, it made sense.

Quentin Lance has sense redeemed himself for being briefly in cahoots with Darhk.  I don’t feel like he has any sort of penance left to pay that would require his death for him to be redeemed.  So, at least to me, it no longer makes sense for it to be Quentin in the grave.  Maybe it is, it’s possible, but it’s not as much of a no-brainer to me as it was right after the season premiere.

If it does end up being Felicity, Barry’s reaction still doesn’t sit right with me, but maybe he’s had time to grieve already.  Maybe he’s emotionally in shock.  I don’t know.  And maybe it isn’t Felicity at all.  There are still plenty of people it could be in that grave, it doesn’t have to be Felicity, and Felicity could easily pull through from her injuries in “Dark Waters.”  Again, all of that is irrelevant.

In the continuity Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg have created, this version of Green Arrow is very much a Batman analog.  This has been a complaint by detractors of the series since the beginning, and they aren’t wrong.  They’re wrong about it being a bad thing, but they aren’t wrong about it being a fact.  Because of this, I just can’t see Oliver Queen getting a happily ever after.  If he did, he wouldn’t have a reason to continue his crusade.

Think about where we met Oliver at the beginning of the season.  He retired, he left Starling City, he and Felicity ran off to be happy together.  He was brought back because the team needed him, but I think he and Felicity would have been happy living a civilian life, and I don’t see either of them wanting him to continue if they were to get married.  Felicity wants her happily ever after.  She wants a family and a normal life.

Because of this, Oliver and Felicity can’t end up together.  Like Batman, Oliver continuing his crusade is dependent on tragedy.  Once Oliver finds true happiness, which he has with Felicity, I don’t see him going on.  Especially since he has a great team there to continue protecting the city.

Maybe I’m wrong.  It’s happened before.  The way I see it, this just ins’t meant to be.  And just because the funeral is still several months, that doesn’t mean Felicity is out of the woods on her injuries.  She could be in the hospital on life support for several more episodes, or she could even seem to recover and then some unknown internal injury could tragically take her out.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and check out my column at TheBlaze.

The History of Superhero Movies: Joel Schumacher’s Batman

batman-robin

This is the thirty-first installment in a series of articles tracing the complete history of superheroes in film and television, from the first superhero serial all the way to the current Marvel and DC cinematic universes.  For the previous installment click here, for the first installment click here.

After the controversy surrounding Tim Burton’s “Batman Returns,” and numerous boycotts and protests from parents groups claiming the film was “unsuitable for children,” Warner Bros. decided to ask Burton not to direct the third, but to stay on as producer.  Burton – who had originally been hesitant to return for a second – was excited at prospect of doing a third, but he reluctantly agreed provided he could hire his own replacement.  The studio agreed.

Tim Burton had planned to hire a director who had a similar gothic style to his own and who was known for making dark pictures.  He chose “The Lost Boys” director Joel Schumacher for the job.  This would be a decision that would forever go down in infamy, but to be honest the next two Batman films would have been the same no matter who was directing, and to lay the blame solely at the feet of Joel Schumacher – which is often done – is unfair.

Whereas Burton had been given complete creative control over “Batman Returns,” the production of “Batman Forever” was mired in studio mandates to make up for what had been the perceived failures of the last film.  The first of these mandates was that “Batman Forever” feature the character Robin, who had been left out of the last two pictures.  The studio felt that Robin would add to the film’s appeal to children by offering them a character to identify with, which was the idea behind the original creation of the character in 1940.

When Tim Burton was asked not to return, Michael Keaton also decided that he would not be reprising his role as Batman.  This left the production in need of a new caped crusader, and Joel Schumacher set about the daunting task of finding someone who could follow Keaton as the Dark Knight.  A few days after Michael Keaton officially bowed out, Joel Schumacher cast Val Kilmer as the new Batman.

For Robin, Marlon Wayans had originally been cast and signed on to the film before Burton’s departure.  Schumacher, wanting to keep a fidelity to the source material, made the decision to replace Wayans with a white actor.  Leonardo DiCapprio was the first choice, but he turned the role down.  Every actor between the age of 17 and 25 auditioned for the part.  Among the future Hollywood stars to audition were Alan Cummings, Ewen McGregor, Jude Law and Mark Wahlberg.  The part eventually went to Chris O’Donnell.

Michael Jackson campaigned for the role of the Riddler, but he was dismissed out of hand.  Robin Williams was the first choice for the role, but he turned it down.  During production of the first “Batman,” Robin Williams was used as bait to get Jack Nicholson to sign on as the Joker.  Williams was never seriously considered for the part, but he was used as a bargaining chip to get Nicholson, and Williams didn’t appreciate that.  Because of the animosity he held for Tim Burton for using him, he declined to appear as the Riddler.  The role went to Jim Carrey, who played the part very much akin to Frank Gorshin’s portrayal in the 1966 television series.

In the original film, the character of Harvey Dent – in that movie Gotham City’s District Attorney, but destined to become the villain Two-Face – was played by Billy Dee Williams.  Williams has said that he originally took the role of Harvey Dent in the hopes that he would one day get to play Two-Face, as he was familiar with the comic books.  The same as with Robin, Schumacher was hesitant to stray from the source material.  His first and only choice to play the role was Tommy Lee Jones – whom Schumacher had worked with on the John Grisham adaptation “The Client” – and because of this, Williams was never offered the opportunity to return.  It is because of reasons like this that the Burton and Schumacher films are generally considered separate franchises, in spite of sharing very loose continuity.

While “Batman Forever” carried a decidedly lighter tone than the previous two, it was generally given favorable reviews by critics.  Many critics praised the film for lightening its tone after the gothic romp that was “Batman Returns.”  Among fans, the general consensus was that it wasn’t as good as the previous two, but it wasn’t terrible either.  “Batman Forever” would also go on to earn almost $100 million more than its predecessor at the box office.

The success of “Batman Forever” – and yes, it was considered a success at the time – led to another sequel with Schumacher at the helm.  Burton declined to returned as producer, because he disagreed with the direction Warner Bros. – not Joel Schumacher – took the last film in.  The success of “Batman Forever,” unfortunately, also reinforced with Warner Bros. that their mandates had been the right direction in which to take the film.  Because of this reinforcement, they decided to increase the mandates to absurd levels.

Joel Schumacher has been criticized for his use of the phrase, “Remember this is a cartoon,” when directing the actors.  Schumacher did direct with this phrase, but it wasn’t because he personally didn’t take the material seriously.  That was a mandate from the studio, that the films be made like a live action cartoon.  Warner Bros. was also concerned that the film be able to translate itself to as many toys as possible.  They even went so far as to allow the toy company to design and dictate how props and vehicles were to look.  This is also why Batman, Robin and Batgirl go through at least two costume each.  So they could make and sell toys.

Joel Schumacher’s insistence on fidelity to the source material did not, apparently, extend to the character of Batgirl.  In the comics, Batgirl is Barbara Gordon, daughter of the police commissioner.  In the film she became Barbara Wilson, great niece of Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s butler.  Her mask was also changed from a full cowl – like Batman’s – to a domino mask, similar to what Robin wears.  The full cowl can be seen briefly, but it’s quickly discarded for no apparent reason at all.

Val Kilmer did not return as Batman.  While Kilmer and Schumacher’s stories conflict, they two men infamously clashed on the set of “Batman Forever” and neither probably wanted Kilmer to return.  While Schumacher maintains that Kilmer was always welcome back, but was committed to “The Saint” and was unable to return, Kilmer claims he was never asked to return or even told there would be another movie.  Kilmer claims he didn’t know there was going to be another film until he read that George Clooney had been cast as Batman.

In keeping with every Batman film apart from the first one, this “Batman and Robin” also employed two villains.  Villains popular at the time, due to the popularity of “Batman: The Animated Series” were Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy.  Mr. Freeze was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger – presumably because Schwarzenegger is Austrian and Mr. Freeze is German – while Poison Ivy was played by Uma Thurman.  As with the previous movie, both villains were played over-the-top.

Mr. Freeze’s backstory was taken directly from the animated series.  Traditionally, Mr. Freeze was always just portrayed as a mutated thief.  A street thug mutated in an accident while trying to escape Batman, and he blamed Batman for the accident.  In the backstory created by Paul Dini for the animated series, however, Mr. Freeze was turned into a much more tragic character.  While this was retained for the film, it wasn’t really used properly and just felt kind of shoehorned in.

“Batman and Robin” was a financial disaster and received very negative reviews.  The general consensus had been that they went too far in the light-hearted and cartoony direction.  Many compared it to the 1966 television series, and the comparison was not at all favorable.  “Batman and Robin” killed the series, and cemented Schumacher’s reputation as the man who ruined Batman, a reputation he will probably never live down.  Schumacher did want the opportunity to redeem himself, to direct a dark Batman in keeping with other films he’s directed, but Warner Bros. wouldn’t have it.  Instead, it would take eight years for Batman to see new life.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and check out my column at TheBlaze.

References:

Batman 3“.  Entertainment Weekly. October 1, 1993.

Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight-Reinventing a Hero (DVD). Warner Bros. 2005.

Army Archerd (December 1, 1994). “Culkin kids ink with WMA”. Variety.

Jeff Gordinier (July 15, 1994). “Next at Batman“.  Entertainment Weekly.

Judy Brennan (1994-06-03). “Batman Battles New Bat Villains”.  Entertainment Weekly

Batman Heroes Profile: Harvey Dent (DVD). Batman Special Edition: Warner Bros. Home Video. 2005.

“Christopher Nolan: The Movies. The Memories.”  Empire.  July 2010.

“DiCaprio Interview”.  Shortlist.  2010-07-15.

The History of Superhero Movies: ‘The Mask’

carrey

This is the thirtieth installment in a series of articles tracing the complete history of superheroes in film and television, from the first superhero serial all the way to the current Marvel and DC cinematic universes.  For the previous installment click here, for the first installment click here.

1994’s “The Mask” was based on the Dark Horse comic book series created by Dark Horse’s founder Mike Richardson.  The film starred Jim Carrey in his first film appearance after his break-out role in “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” as well as being a break-out role in its own right for Cameron Diaz, who was making her feature film debut.

The film takes a decidedly different turn with the material than the original comic book series had.  The comics were much darker in tone, although the violence was still as cartoonish and over-the-top as it was in the film.  Originally, New Line Cinema had intended to keep the tone of the comics intact, seeing “The Mask” as a horror film instead of a comedy.  The original intent was to have the next “Friday the 13th” or “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise, but this ultimately wasn’t to be the case.

The film went through several drafts as a horror film before the decision was made to make it a comedy instead.  Earlier that same year, Jim Carrey – who had risen to prominence as a member of the skit comedy television series “In Living Color” – had become a huge star with the hit comedy film “Ace Ventura.”  Due to his natural facial elasticity and over-the-top humor in both “In Living Color” and “Ace Ventura,” Carrey was cast as the film’s protagonist, Stanely Ipkiss.

When the decision was made to change the tone of the picture, special attention was taken to retain the look of the character.  The superhero character – called Big Head – is fairly close to the comic books.  He has a large bald and green head with no ears and big teeth.  Even the bright yellow zoot suit was taken directly from the comic books.

The film follows Stanley Ipkiss, a meek and timid bank teller who hates his job, his boss and his customers, as he finds a strange wooden mask in a river.  He initially jumped into the river because the mask, tangled up in some garbage, looked like a floating body and he attempted to save it.  When he discovered it was just garbage, for him that was the end to a perfectly b-e-a-utiful day.  He picks up the mask and takes it home with him.

He soon puts on the mask, and finds out that it grants him magical powers.  Powers which he states he can use to become a superhero.  Big Head is still violent in the film, as he is in the comics, but his violence is is tempered with comedy and a much more cartoonish style, in the vein of old Tex Avery cartoons.  He is seen chasing an alarm clock down the hall of his apartment building with a large mallet, and even makes a machine gun out of a balloon animal.

After the success of “Ace Ventura,” the success of “The Mask” pretty much cemented Jim Carrey’s reputation as a comedy powerhouse and one of the biggest stars of the 90s.  In fact, both of those movies introduced many catchphrases into the pop culture such as “S-s-s-s-smokin’!” and “Aaaaaalrighty, then!” which remained popular throughout the decade.

“The Mask” went on to become the second highest grossing superhero movie of the time, behind Tim Burton’s “Batman” which came out five years before.  The film holds a 77% on Rotten Tomatoes, with the critical consensus being that “it misses perhaps as often as it hits, but Jim Carrey’s manic bombast, Cameron Diaz’ blowsy appeal, and the film’s overall cartoony bombast keep ‘The Mask’ afloat.”

“The Mask” is the perfect example of why straying from the source material can sometimes be a good thing, and can even make the story or the characters better.  A film like “The Mask” could never be made today because the fanboys would eat it alive for being a little bit different.  No, “The Mask” wasn’t the same as the comic book, but that doesn’t invalidate its existence.  The only validation “The Mask” needs to exist is that it was a wonderful movie which was successful in everything it tried to be.

“The Mask” was followed by a sequel, “Son of the Mask,” in 2005.  “Son of the Mask” tried to go too far in the cartoonish direction, and comes off as much more of a children’s movie than the original.  “Son of the Mask” is generally considered to be a failure.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and check out my column at TheBlaze.

References:

Ebert, Roger (July 29, 1994). “The Mask”.  rogerebert.com.

“The Mask (1994)”. Rotten Tomatoes.

“The Mask (1994)”. Box Office Mojo.

“The Mask”. British Board of Film Classification.

The History of Superhero Movies: ‘The Crow’

Crow

This is the twenty-ninth installment in a series of articles tracing the complete history of superheroes in film and television, from the first superhero serial all the way to the current Marvel and DC cinematic universes.  For the previous installment click here, for the first installment click here.

Based on the comic book series by James O’Barr and originally published by Caliber Comics, “The Crow” was the last film produced in the vein of Tim Burton’s “Batman,” and it was probably the only film to really come close to recapturing what Burton had done with the superhero genre.

“The Crow” starred Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, as tragic hero Eric Draven.  Even more tragically, the star-making role would be Lee’s last, as he was accidentally killed during filming.  The film also starred Ernie Hudson and Michael Wincott.  Wincott had made a name for himself playing villains in the early 90s.  In 1991 he starred as Guy of Gisbourne in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and in 1993 he played the similar Comte de Rochefort in the Walt Disney Pictures adaptation of “The Three Musketeers.”

Several changes were made for the film, mostly to transform the story into a cohesive narrative.  One of the elements of the story that was dropped, although it was filmed and was originally planned to be included, was the character of the Skull Cowboy.  In the comics, the Skull Cowboy was Eric’s guide on Earth.  In the film, Eric has a sort of telepathic link with the crow that brought him back from the dead and it’s the bird that fills the role of guide.

Originally “The Crow” was planned as a direct-to-video release, but was picked up by Paramount Pictures for a theatrical release.  After the death of star Brandon Lee and the controversy that followed over the film’s violence, Paramount pulled out and the film was picked up by Miramax – a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company – for theatrical distribution.  While the film barely made back twice its production budget, it was critically praised and developed a very strong cult following on home video.

“The Crow” was followed by three sequels and a short-lived television series, but none of them were able to capture the magic of the original.  The second film, “The Crow: City of Angels,” attempted to appeal to the gothic audience that took so well to the original, but ended up being so stylized that it lost the general audience.  “The Crow: Stairway to Heaven” television series was watered down for television, and it also took liberties with the Eric Draven story, which turned off a lot of fans.  “The Crow: Salvation” was a decent film, and definitely a step up from “City of Angels,” but it failed to really bring anything new to the franchise and wasn’t much more than a rehash of the original with different characters.  The final film in the franchise, “The Crow: Wicked Prayer,” just wasn’t good and is often considered the worst in the series.

There are currently plans to remake the original Eric Draven story, which many fans on the Internet have been adamantly opposed to.  Producers claim that they want to bring new elements from the original graphic novel that weren’t used in the original to the table, and have assured fans that the story will be treated with respect and with a great reverence for the original film while still bringing something fresh and new to the franchise.

The Death of Brandon Lee

The accidental shooting of Brandon Lee on the set was the result of a remarkable sequence of events.

While set dressers were dressing the pawn shop set, one prop hand purchased a bulk lot of items, including a box of live ammunition.  The prop master, upon seeing the live ammunition, didn’t want them anywhere near the set for safety concerns.  The bullets were removed from the set, but not from the production entirely.

When the time came that the production needed dummy rounds, the decision was made to convert the live ammunition into dummy rounds.  This was done by removing the bullet, dumping the powder, setting off the primer and then replacing the bullet.  This renders the ammunition incapable of being fired, and therefore harmless.  During the process, one primer was overlooked and wasn’t set off.  During the filming of the scene with the dummy rounds, the primer was discharged inside the chamber and that had just enough force to lodge the bullet in the barrel.

During filming of another scene with the same prop gun, blank ammunition was used.  Blank ammunition is basically a live round with no bullet.  Due to negligence, the weapon wasn’t checked and the barrel wasn’t cleared.  The bullet from the dummy round was still lodged in the barrel of the .44 Magnum revolver.

When the blank round was discharged, the force of the blank round firing expelled the bullet that had been lodged in the barrel previously out of the gun.  The bullet struck Brandon Lee in the abdomen and he died at the hospital.  The decision was made to continue the production, since Brandon Lee only had a few scenes left to shoot.  The scenes were completed with a double.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and check out my column at TheBlaze.

References:

McCarthy, Todd (April 28, 1994), “The Crow”, Variety

Ebert, Roger (May 13, 1994), “The Crow”, Chicago Sun-Times

Welkos, Robert W. (April 1, 1993). “Bruce Lee’s Son, Brandon, Killed in Movie Accident”. The Los Angeles Times.

Brown, Dave, “Filming with Firearms”, Film Courage

Harris, Mark (April 16, 1993). “The brief life and unnecessary death of Brandon Lee”. Entertainment Weekly.

Ascher-Walsh, Rebecca (May 13, 1994). “The Crowcast deals with Brandon’s Lee death”. Entertainment Weekly.

Fleming Jr., Mike (January 24, 2012). “UPDATE: F. Javier Gutierrez To Helm Jesse Wigutow-Scripted ‘The Crow’ Remake”

The History of Superhero Movies: ‘Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman’

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This is the twenty-eighth installment in a series of articles tracing the complete history of superheroes in film and television, from the first superhero serial all the way to the current Marvel and DC cinematic universes.  For the previous installment click here, for the first installment click here.

In 1992, Warner Bros. and DC Comics were eager to retrieve the rights to the Superman character they had licensed out to Alexander Salkind and his son Ilya some twenty years prior.  The Salkinds were determined to milk the property for everything it was worth and hadn’t stopped exploiting the property since they licensed it.  The Salkinds had the first-run syndication television series “The Adventures of Superboy” finishing up its fourth – and what would ultimately be its last – season, and they were already planning a fifth.  Warner Bros. took the Salkinds to court and in an undisclosed settlement were able to retrieve all rights to Superman and related characters.  This, of course, cause the Superboy series to end after its current season.

Eager to begin exploiting Superman under their own banner, Warner Bros. quickly contacted Deborah Joy Levine and asked if she would be interested.  Levine said that she was not interested in creating a new Superman show for television, but that she could be interested in doing a romantic comedy called “Lois and Clark.”  Warner Bros. agreed to hear her ideas and ultimately gave her the go-ahead to produce a pilot.  On the strength of that pilot, which was written by Levine and directed by Robert Butler, CBS picked up the series.

In keeping with Levine’s promise, the series focused on the romantic tensions between Lois Lane and Clark Kent, with Superman almost an afterthought – sometimes only being seen for mere moments at the end of an episode .  The first season featured very grounded threats for the Man of Steel, mostly thugs and the illicit corporate dealings of Lex Luthor.  Luthor, played by John Shea, was a regular during the first season.

The series also tried to incorporate a sort of complex, five sided love “triangle” between Clark Kent, Superman, Lois Lane and Daily Planet gossip columnist Cat Grant.  Clark Kent was fast falling for Lois, Lois – as always – only had eyes for Superman, Cat Grant kept trying to get straight-edged farmboy Clark into bed and Superman, well, he was in love with Lois Lane but wanted her to be in love with Clark, not Superman.  Lex Luthor was also trying to court Lois Lane.

In a surprising – and heart-wrenching for the creators currently working on the Superman comics – turn of events, the series had a profound impact on the Superman comic books of the time.  In the comics, Clark Kent had finally revealed his identity to Lois Lane and asked her to marry him, which she accepted.  The plan for the 1992-93 year of comics was for a series of events to unfold leading up to the wedding of Superman and Lois Lane.  The series, intending from the outset to eventually marry off Lois and Clark themselves, didn’t want the pair to marry in the comics before the series.  Because of this, the comics for the next year had to be completely re-plotted on the fly which actually ended in one of the most popular and epic Superman storylines of all time, the death and return of Superman.

At the end of the first season, unhappy with the studio’s insistence that more emphasis be placed actually on Superman and for Dean Cain to have more screen time in the suit, Deborah Joy Levine left the series.

The second season, in addition to using more Superman, also began to introduce more comic book characters and elements.  In season two, the characters of Toy Man – in name only in a lot of ways – as well as the character of Metallo.  Winslow Schott – never actually called “Toy Man” in the episode, which was written by Dean Cain himself – was played by Sherman Hemsley.  Hemsley’s former “The Jeffersons” co-star Isabel Sanford also appeared in the episode.  Former “Family Ties” co-star Scott Valentine portrayed Metallo.

The second season also saw the departure of Tracy Scoggins’ Cat Grant, as well as the recasting of Jimmy Olsen.  Michael Landes, who played Jimmy Olsen in the first season, was deemed to be too similar to Dean Cain in appearance, and that Jimmy and Superman looked too much like they could have been brothers.  Because of this, the decision was made to recast the character.  Unlike Cat Grant, the character of Jimmy Olsen was too important to the Superman mythos to be simply written off the show.  Justin Whalin, who had just a few years earlier starred in “Child’s Play 3,” was brought in to replace Landes as Jimmy Olsen.

In addition to Toy Man and Metallo, other characters and elements from the comics introduced in the second season included Bronson Pinchot as The Prankster and the Intergang crime organization.  Intergang and the Prankster were changed significantly from the comics.  The Prankster was named Kyle Griffin instead of Oswald Loomis, although a character named Oswald Loomis was briefly shown in the character’s debut episode, titled “The Prankster,” as a red herring.  Intergang was led by an original character named Bill Church instead of Bruno Mannheim, like in the comics.  All connections between Intergang and Apokolips were also erased, as Apokolips and Darkseid were never featured in the series.

The third season opened with Clark Kent finally asking Lois Lane to marry him, and Lois revealing that she knows that Clark is Superman.  While she initially said no, the season’s arc seemed to be leading toward the wedding of Lois Lane and Superman, a wedding that audiences were denied three years before in the comic books.  They would be denied again, as one thing after another prevented the matrimonial union.  Season three ended with Superman seemingly leaving the Earth with a group of Kryptonian survivors to defeat a Kryptonian menace on New Krypton.

Season four resolved the cliffhanger from the previous season with the Kryptonian villain Lord Nor – who, despite a name change, was basically the same character as General Zod – coming to Earth once he learned he would have super powers here.  Superman defeats Nor and in an episode called “Swear to God, This Time We’re Not Kidding,” Lois and Clark finally married.  The episode aired on October 6, 1996.  Wednesday of that same week saw the release of “Superman: The Wedding Album,” which saw the characters married in the comic book continuity as well.

While the quality of the series improved greatly as the series progressed, ratings began to decline rapidly, mainly due to scheduling issues.  The network couldn’t seem to find a sweet spot for the series.  While there were plans to return for a fifth season, which the network had promised producers and which led to the fourth season ending on a cliffhanger, the series was not renewed and the final cliffhanger went unresolved.  The series ends with Lois and Clark finding a baby left on their doorstep, with a note that reads “Dear Lois and Clark, this belongs to you.”  Season five would have seen Lois and Clark deal with parenting problems, as well as solving the mystery of who left the baby on their doorstep.

The final episode of “Lois and Clark” aired on June 14, 1997.  Audiences, however, would not be deprived of a live action Superman on television for very long.  Four short years later, Superman – or a version of the Superman mythos – would return.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and check out my column at TheBlaze.

References:

Du Brow, Rick (May 11, 1993). “At ABC, Life Goes On With 11 New Series”. The Los Angeles Times.

Rosenberg, Howard (September 11, 1993). “Lois & Clark Soars, and So Does Townsend”. The Los Angeles Times.

O’Connor, John J. (April 9, 1995). “TELEVISION VIEW; That Man In a Cape Is Still Flying”. The New York Times

“History of Lois and Clark – Part 1”. Redboots.net

Allstetter, Rob (August 1997). “‘Lois & Clark’ Meets Kryptonite”. Wizard (72). p. 119.

Dimino, Russ. “The Many Faces Of… Super-Weddings!” KryptonSite.com.

The History of Superhero Movies: ‘The Rocketeer’

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This is the twenty-seventh installment in a series of articles tracing the complete history of superheroes in film and television, from the first superhero serial all the way to the current Marvel and DC cinematic universes.  For the previous installment click here, for the first installment click here.

In 1982 cartoonist Dave Stevens published the first of his stories starring a character based on the various rocket men of the early movie serials.  Audiences were first introduced to the Rocketeer in the second issue of the Pacific Comics series “Starslayer,” which itself was created by Mike Grell.  Nine years after his first appearance, the Rocketeer soared into the mainstream when he appeared on movie screens everywhere courtesy of Walt Disney.

The Rocketeer character was first optioned for a motion picture in 1983 by Steve Miner.  Miner had previously been the producer on the first “Friday the 13th” as well as the director on the second and third films in that franchise.  Ultimately, Miner drifted too far away from the original source material and the rights reverted back to Stevens.

In 1985, writers Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo – who would go on to develop “The Flash” as a television series on CBS – were able to win the option on “The Rocketeer” from Dave Stevens for free because he so loved their ideas.  Originally, Bilson and De Meo saw the film as a full homage to movie serials – specifically those featuring Commando Cody – and they even wanted to film the movie in black and white and on a budget comparable to the budgets of those serials, which wasn’t much.

Upon the hiring of William Dear as director, the idea of shooting a low-budget film in keeping with old time film serials went out the window.  The trio stayed pretty true to the plot of the comic books throughout the scripting process.  Where changes were made, they were to either flesh out the character more thoroughly or to make the film more family friendly.  For example, Cliff’s girlfriend – Bettie in the comics, but Jenny in the film – was changed from a nude pin-up model to an aspiring actress.

Bilson and De Meo, along with Dear and Stevens, began shopping the property around to various studios as early as 1986, but they were turned down.  Dave Stevens told “Comic Book Artist” magazine of their struggle, “This was 1986, long before “Batman” or “Dick Tracy” or anything similar.  In those days, no studio was interested at all in an expensive comic book movie. We got there about three years too early for our own good!”

Stevens and company eventually found a home for “The Rocketeer” with the Walt Disney company.  Initially, Disney planned to produce the film under their Touchstone Studios imprint and all four men involved in producing the film signed a three picture deal, guaranteeing a trilogy of Rocketeer films.  Disney had originally opted to accept the property because of its toy and merchandising potential, and Disney president Jeffrey Katzenberg decided it was a better fit as a Walt Disney picture.  Because of this, any adult elements the film might have retained under the Touchstone banner immediately went out the window.

Disney originally wanted to set the film in the modern day.  The reason for this was that executives at the House of Mouse didn’t think a modern audience would be open to a period film.  Bilson and De Meo pointed out that the Indiana Jones films were set in the same time period as the Rocketeer comics, and how successful those films had been.  Disney agreed to allow the producers to set the film in the original time period.

Amid numerous production delays and endless rewrites, Dear ended up leaving the project.  Producers then hired Joe Johnston to direct and in 1990 the film officially went into pre-production.

As with the casting of Superman and Batman before it, the casting of Cliff Secord proved to be difficult.  Many A-listers were put forward, including Kurt Russell, Bill Paxton and Emilio Estevez auditioned, with Johnny Depp being the Disney favorite.  Producers approached Kevin Costner, but he was already committed to “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.”  Ultimately, Johnston and Stevens chose to cast Bill Campbell to the chagrin of the suits at Disney.

Jennifer Connelly was cast as Jenny with Alan Arkin cast as Cliff Secord’s mechanic friend.  The cast was rounded out with a wide range of character actors including Jon Pulito, Eddie Jones, Ed Lauter, and “Tiny” Ron Taylor.  Former James Bond Timothy Dalton was cast as the antagonist Neville Sinclaire, a Nazi spy loosely based on Errol Flynn.

Dave Stevens stayed extremely active during the production of the entire film.  At first, Disney was reticent to have Stevens as involved as he was, thinking that he was there merely for the benefit of his own ego as the creator of the property.  Stevens had to prove that he was there for the benefit of the movie, and was on set anytime anything was happening.

Disney had originally set a budget of $25 million, however the budget was almost doubled to $40 million after Disney was impressed with the film’s dailies.  Suddenly, “The Rocketeer” had gone from being just a merchandising ploy for Disney to being recognized as a legitimate film.  The entire film was shot in and around Los Angeles, including location shoots at Griffith Observatory.

“The Rocketeer” was released on June 21, 1991 but only grossed $46 million domestically.  It was decided that releasing the film under the Walt Disney actually hurt the film, as many members of the teenage audience dismissed it as a kids’ movie.  In response to this, the film was released overseas under the Touchstone, as was originally intended for the US.  The film went on to earn another $23 million in home video sales.

The film received mixed reviews at the time, but has gone on to become something of a cult classic.  Joe Johnston’s work on “The Rocketeer” actually earned him the attention of Marvel Studios, who hired him to direct the period piece “Captain America: The First Avenger.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and check out my column at TheBlaze.

References:

Cooke, Jon B. (transcribed by Sam Gafford).”Rocketeer creator Dave Stevens on his life as an artist.” Comic Book Artist #15

Schweiger, Daniel. “Rocketeer: Comic Book Origins.”Cinefantastique, August 1991.

“Blast off!” Entertainment Weekly, Issue #74, July 12, 1991.

“The Rocketeer.” Box Office Mojo.

 

The History of Superhero Movies: Original TMNT Trilogy

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This is the twenty-sixth installment in a series of articles tracing the complete history of superheroes in film and television, from the first superhero serial all the way to the current Marvel and DC cinematic universes.  For the previous installment click here, for the first installment click here.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were originally created in 1984 by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird as a parody of modern superhero comics.  The turtles themselves, being mutants, were a play on the mutants of the X-Men books.  The idea of them being ninjas as well as the Foot Clan were a play on the Daredevil comics and the ninja group the Hand.  Another influence was in the turtles’ mentor, Splinter, who was a play on the name of Daredevil’s mentor, Stick.

In 1987 the concept was turned into a wildly popular Saturday morning cartoon series by Fred Wolf Films.  The cartoon brought with it a wave of “Turtlemania” that conquered the world during the late 80s and early 90s.  The phenomenon that was Turtlemania caused film production companies Golden Harvest and Limelight Productions to team up in acquiring the rights and producing a big budget live-action blockbuster based on the property.

The original “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” film was given a $13.5 million budget, which was modest even for the time.  The budget was only slightly higher than budgets given to “Captain America” or “The Punisher,” but director Steve Barron – who was mostly known as a music video director at the time – was able to do so much more with the money he had than either of the other two productions.

The prosthetic turtle costumes – “Jurassic Park” and the advent of computer generated imagery was still several years away – were created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.  This would be the last project overseen by Henson himself, who died in May of 1990.  The turtles took three actors each to operate.  A body double actually wore the suit and performed in pantomime, the mouth and eyes were operated by an animatronic puppeteer and a separate voice actor provided the dialogue.  Only in the case of Josh Pais as Raphael did the same actor who wore the suit provide the voice.

Several of the voice actors included Robbie Rist – who had risen to fame as Cousin Oliver on “The Brady Bunch” – as Michelangelo, Brian Tochi – most well known as Toshiro Takashi from the “Revenge of the Nerds” movies – as Leonardo, Corey Feldman – a popular A-lister at the time – as Donatello and Kevin Clash – who provided the voice of Elmo on “Sesame Street” – as Splinter.  While Splinter was a puppet only and had no one in the suit, Kevin Clash did also perform the puppeteer duties for that character.

The film took a decidedly different direction from both the comics – which were very dark and serious – and the cartoon – which was very over the top and silly – combining the two approaches into something uniquely its own, yet recognizable to fans of both.  The film was very serious and dealt with a lot of dark themes, but retained the turtles’ humor and personalities – as well as their mutli-colored bandanas – from the animated series.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” debuted in theaters on March 30, 1990 and was a commercial success, going on to make $201.9 million from its $13.5 million budget.  It did take a beating from several critics at the time, with Kim Newman from the UK’s Monthly Film Bulletin even going so far as to call the film racist in its depiction of Japanese culture.  Roger Ebert disagreed, stating that there was no racism in the film.

Because of the film’s commercial success, a sequel was quickly fast-tracked.  “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze” was released on March 22, 1991, one year after the release of the first.  The sequel was given a much larger budget than the original, around $25 million, but the rushed production schedule didn’t do the film any favors even with the bigger budget.

Voice actors Kevin Clash, Brian Tochi and Robbie Rist all returned to reprise their roles.  Corey Feldman, however, did not return to voice Donatello and he was replaced with Adam Carl.  Likewise, Josh Pais was replaced as the voice of Raphael by Laurie Faso, who had also voiced Tunnel Rat in the G.I. Joe animated movie.  Judith Hoag was replaced with Paige Turco as April O’Neal and the character of Casey Jones was dropped form the sequel entirely, despite it taking place mere days after the end of the first.  Casey Jones isn’t even mentioned.

The studio wanted to introduce the mutant menaces Beebop and Rocksteady from the still-popular cartoon in the sequel, however due to the legal hurdles that would have been required to license those characters from Fred Wolf Films two new characters – Tokka and Rahzar – were created.

The tone of the film was lightened up considerably from the first, and much more resembled the silliness of the cartoon.  Due to censorship overseas – in many European countries ninjas and ninja weapons are banned, prompting the property to be branded “Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles” in those jurisdictions – and because of severe edits made to the fist film the turtles’ weapons were often replaced in the sequel with odd objects.  In one scene, Michelangelo uses linked sausage instead of his trademark nunchaku as a weapon.

Still, even with the lighter tone, Turtlemania was still in full force and the film almost recouped its entire budget during opening weekend alone.  It went on to make $78 million at the box office, considerably less than its predecessor but still enough to be considered financially successful.  Once again, a sequel was planned.

The third TMNT film wasn’t as rushed as the second, however this didn’t do much to improve the film’s quality.  Released on March 19, 1993, TMNT 3 was largely based on a popular video game at the time – “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time” – which had been released the previous year.

The third film retained the lighter and sillier tone of the second, and even got a little lighter and sillier.  The turtle suits, also, weren’t quite as realistic as they had been in the first two, having been created this time by the All Effects Company instead of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.  Once again Robbie Rist and Brian Tochi returned to voice their characters – becoming the only actors to be in all three films – and Corey Feldman returned to voice Donatello once again.  Turtles 3 also saw the return of Casey Jones, once again played by Elias Koteas, and Paige Turco reprise her role as April O’Neil.  Kevin Clash did not return to voice Splinter.

Despite having a comparable budget to the second – and much higher than the first – and having a production schedule that allowed for more time to be taken in making the film, Turtles 3 failed to live up to expectations.  The film grossed just $42 million, barely twice its $21 million budget.  The film was also mostly panned by critics, with the critical consensus being “It’s a case of one sequel too many for the heroes in a half shell, with a tired time-travel plot gimmick failing to save the franchise from rapidly diminishing returns.”

Turtlemania had reached its pinnacle, and the ride had started to slow.  While there was an attempt at television, it would be another four years before the turtles were once again on cinema screens, and another 21 years before they would see another live action blockbuster.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and check out my column at TheBlaze.

References:

Newman, Kim (December 1990). “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”. Monthly Film Bulletin (London) LVII(683): 344–345.

Ebert, Roger (March 30, 1990). “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”. rogerebert.com.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2005)”. Boxofficemojo.com.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II (1991)”. Boxofficemojo.com.

“If Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Gets A Sequel, Expect Bebop And Rocksteady”. Cinema Blend. August 11, 2014.

The History of Superhero Movies: ‘The Flash’ (1990-1991)

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This is the twenty-fifth installment in a series of articles tracing the complete history of superheroes in film and television, from the first superhero serial all the way to the current Marvel and DC cinematic universes.  For the previous installment click here, for the first installment click here.

With “Batman” breaking box office and merchandising records and with “Superboy” doing very well in first-run syndication, Warner Bros. thought it was time to bring another of their more popular characters to television.

The Flash” actually began production in 1988, while “Batman” was still in production.  Producers Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo originally had an idea for a Justice League television series, which would feature several superheroes including the Flash, but Warner Bros. passed on that idea.  At the beginning of 1990, new CBS Entertainment president Jeff Segansky expressed interest in producing a television series based on the Flash and the show was immediately put into production with Bilson and De Meo still on as showrunners.

Bilson and De Meo wrote the series pilot, a two-hour feature-length episode which detailed the complete origin of the Flash.  Although Wally West had been the Flash in comics for several years, the character chosen for the series was Barry Allen.  Barry Allen had been the Flash introduced in the silver age of comics and who had died during DC Comics’ “Crisis on Infinite Earths” in 1986.  The original golden age Flash, Jay Garrick, was given a sort of honorable mention as Barry’s older brother, Jay Allen.

Producers didn’t want the Flash to just be a guy in tights running around, feeling that after “Batman” and the more armored look Tim Burton gave to the character, a spandex-clad superhero might be too silly for a modern audience.  Instead, they commissioned Stan Winston Studios to develop a suit similar to the one used in “Batman,” but tailored toward the Flash.  The suit was designed by costumer Robert Short.  The molded rubber suit was covered in crushed red velvet to differentiate it from Batman.  Actor John Wesley Shipp, who played Barry Allen and his crimson-clad alter ego, wore a water-cooled undersuit that offset the heat held in by the costume.

The theme song for the series was composed by Danny Elfman, who had composed the score for “Batman” and would go on to score superhero themes for Spider-Man and the Hulk.  The series itself was composed by Shirley Walker, who would also score “Batman: The Animated Series,” which also used Danny Elfman’s Batman march from the Tim Burton films.

Based on the strength of the pilot, “The Flash” was picked up for a 22 episode first season.  At first, the Flash fought normal gangsters, although some more colorful characters would be introduced later in the season.  Supervillains taken from the comic books included Captain Cold, Mirror Master and the Trickster.  An original supervillain created for the series, the Ghost, was also featured in one episode.  Mirror Master was played by former Partridge Family frontman and 70s teen idol David Cassidy, while the Trickster was played by former Luke Skywalker and future Joker Mark Hammil.  Hammil’s performance as the Trickster was actually instrumental in helping him get cast as the Joker for “Batman: The Animated Series.”

One of the Flash’s greatest enemies from the comics, the Reverse Flash, was noticeably absent.  The name “Professor Zoom,” which the Reverse Flash was also called, was used by Barry as an alias in the episode “Done With Mirrors,” when Barry went undercover.  The episode “Twin Streaks” there is another speedster featured, but this character, Pollux, is a clone of Barry and he wears blue instead of yellow.  He could be viewed as the Reverse Flash from this series, but he bared no resemblance to the comics and was only featured in a single episode.

A second season was planned, but unfortunately wasn’t to be.  “The Flash” was originally scheduled on Thursday nights at 8pm, opposite both “The Cosby Show” and “The Simpsons,” two of the most popular television series of the season.  CBS attempted to move the show around the schedule, but was never able to find an audience and the show was canceled before the second season could go into production.  According to producers, the season two premiere would have involved Flash’s Rogues teaming up against him.

“The Flash” has developed a cult following and has found a new generation of fans on DVD.  In homage to the original series, the 2014 television series has brought back many actors from the original series such as John Wesley Shipp – this time playing Barry Allen’s father, Henry – as well as Amanda Pays, Mark Hammil and Vito D’Ambrosio all reprising their roles from the original series.

Six episodes from “The Flash” were edited into three feature-length movies and released to VHS during the early 90s.  The movies include “The Flash” – the feature-length pilot – “The Flash II: Revenge of the Trickster” – comprised of the two Trickster episodes – and “The Flash III: Deadly Nightshade” – comprised of two episodes featuring the original character Nightshade.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and check out my column at TheBlaze.

References:

King, Susan (September 19, 1990). “‘Flash’ Suits Up for a Sizzling TV Ratings Race”. Los Angeles Times.

Schweier, Philip (September 16, 2007). “The Flash: The Fastest Show On Television”. Comic Book Bin.

Miller, Ron (August 30, 1990). “Superchallenge: On CBS, The Flash Faces Toughest Foes Yet: ‘Cosby’ And ‘Simpsons'”. Chicago Tribune.

Ng, Philiana (May 27, 2014). “‘Flash’: John Wesley Shipp’s Secret Character Revealed”. The Hollywood Reporter.

Sepinwall, Alan (December 8, 2014). “Exclusive: Mark Hamill to play the Trickster again on ‘The Flash'”. Hitfix.

The History of Superhero Movies: ‘Captain America’ (1990)

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This is the twenty-fourth installment in a series of articles tracing the complete history of superheroes in film and television, from the first superhero serial all the way to the current Marvel and DC cinematic universes.  For the previous installment click here, for the first installment click here.

In 1984, the Cannon Group – who would go on to purchase an option on a fourth Superman film from Alexander and Ilya Salkind and produce “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” – acquired the feature film rights for Captain America.  Cannon, who was known for producing low budget B-movies mostly, was desperate to get into the blockbuster game and Captain America and Superman were their attempts at doing that.  The problem was, they weren’t in a position to put out the upfront cost needed to truly make a blockbuster film.  Captain America, while ultimately not produced by Cannon, would suffer from the same budgetary problems Superman had in 1987.

Cannon first put Captain America into production with Michael Winner, who had directed the “Death Wish” films with Charles Bronson, as director and James Wilke as screenwriter.  By 1986, Silke was out and Winner had taken over scripting duties alongside Lawrence Block and Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Stan Lee.  In 1987 Winner himself left the project and John Stockwell, who had played Dennis in John Carpenter’s “Christine” – based on the novel by Stephen King – had come on board with a new script penned by Stephen Tolkin.

In 1989 Manahem Golan left Cannon Group, and as part of a severance package was given control of his own imprint – 21st Century Film Corporation – and the license on Captain America.  Golan immediately put Captain America into production, shooting for a 1990 theatrical release.  This timeline of just barely a year would have been detrimental to the film alone, regardless of how much money the studio was willing to throw at it, but it suffered from no time and no money on top of that.

Golan brought with him director Albert Pyun, who had directed the Jean-Claude Van Damme film “Cyborg” at Cannon – to helm the project, retaining the Tolkin script.  Matt Salinger, son of acclaimed novelist J.D. Salinger, was cast as Captain America with Ronny Cox, Darren McGavin and Ned Beatty in supporting roles.  Scott Paulin, who had played astronaut Deke Slayton in “The Right Stuff,” was cast as Captain America’s nemesis the Red Skull.

Originally, Pyun had intended for some sequences to be much grander and full of more scope, wanting to film scenes in Alaska and the United States, but 21st Century Films ran out of money and corners were cut to finish the film.  The production never went to Alaska and only two days of pick-ups were filmed in the U.S.  The majority of filming took place in Yugoslavia.

Several release dates were set between 1990 and 1991, but the film never saw theatrical release in North America.  It saw theatrical release in December of 1990 in the UK and other countries, but wouldn’t see the light of day in the United States until it was released direct-to-video in 1992.  For many years, it was only available on DVD as a bootleg found at comic book conventions.  In 2011, to coincide with the release of “Captain America: The First Avenger,” MGM released the film on DVD courtesy of their manufacture-on-demand service, then in 2013 Shout! Factory released a mass marketed Blu-ray edition of the film.  A “Director’s Cut” of the film exists, but has never been released.

Critical reaction to the film was mostly negative.  Common complaints included the traditionally German character of the Red Skull being made Italian and the lack of realism in the costumes, including the rubber ears on the side of Captain America’s mask.  The film holds a 9% on Rotten Tomatoes.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and check out my column at TheBlaze.

References:

“The “Never Got Made” Files #66: Cannon’s CAPTAIN AMERICA (1984-87)”. Video Junkie. July 22, 2011.

Hartl, John. “‘Captain America’ Flies Straight To Video”, The Seattle Times via the South Florida Sun Sentinel, July 8, 1992.

Lee, Stan. “Bullpen Bulletins: Stan’s Soapbox,” Marvel comics cover-dated May 1990.

Ryan, Mike.  “Matt Salinger: The True Captain America,” GQ, July 20, 2011.

“Captain America (1990)”. Rotten Tomatoes.

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