Monday, October 24, 2016

DC TV fall 2016 reactions

I'm afraid I'm not likely to be regularly updateing my thoughts on the DC shows this season.  I shall share a few I have now.

I'm giving Gotham a second chance mainly for Jamie Chung, I love her.

Supergirl is still going strong, the first two episodes were perfect, the third was really great but I cringed at all the fawning over the President.

The Flash has me concerned, I've never been fond of Flashpoint and not just because of New 52.

I stopped watching Arrow.

Legends is hit and miss still.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Mysteries of Gotham

I obtained the other day a Hardcover copy I ordered of Denny O'Neil's novelization of Knightfall.  As I often do I skipped to read the afterward before the actual book, in this case it didn't spoil anything since I knew the story from the BBC Radio Drama, and got a glimpse of the actual Comics in Robin Flying Solo, from various reviews I've read these adaptations of the story are improvements.

The afterward I'm assuming is also written by O'Neil since no one else is credited and it seems like what he'd say.  In it he suggests that the ability of a Bat like creature which used to be a symbol of evil to become a Hero perhaps has it's roots in how the way Cities are viewed changed in the middle of the 19th Century.  Dickens is the literary reference he cited, but I feel that theory provides good context for my desire to talk about how the roots of Batman and the genres he traverses stem from Eugene Sue and his French peers.

It was in Les Mysteries de Paris (The Mysteries of Paris) that Eugene Sue pretty much invented modern Urban Crime and Mystery genres.  But key pieces that came before were Vidocq's memoirs and Lamothe-Lagon's The Police Spy.

I'm hardly the first to compare the protagonist of Sue's novel to Bruce Wayne, an Aristocrat secretly fighting evil by night in the Streets.  Key factors of who Bruce Wayne is are missing of course, but still he could be described as the first Dark Knight.

One of the evidences of the Dick Tracey influence on the Golden Age Batman stories is the commonality of villains with hideous faces, often explained by an accident involving Acid or Chemicals, like The Joker and Two-Face.  Well that trend also begins in The Mysteries of Paris with The Schoolmaster who intentionally scared his face with acid to conceal his identity.

That novel was a massive hit and thus naturally spawned a slew of imitators, the most obvious of which tended to be called "The Mysteries of _____".  Stephen Knight's book The Mysteries of The Cities: Urban Crime Fiction in The Nineteenth Century talks about many of them.

Alexandre Dumas The Count of Monte-Cristo began from an editorial mandate to create another Mysteries of Paris.  But the final product is not really street level enough to make that connection clear.  I'd say the most Suesque novel Dumas wrote was probably The Mohicans of Paris.

There were two novels called The Mysteries of London.  One by an actual Englishman, George Reynolds, which was vital to kicking off the Penny dreadful craze.  And then there was Paul Feval's Les Mysteries de Londres which actually began serialization sooner.  It was also an overlooked influence on tCoMC, and it had an abridged English Translation in about 1847/8.  And later Feval made it part of a shared universe with many other Crime novels he wrote, chiefly John Devil and The Blackcoats series.

But we also can't overlook Sue's own next project, The Wandering Jew, which was about equally as big a hit, and carried on some similar themes.  And later in the last couple novels of Sue's Les Mysteries du People saga he made them part of the same universe.

In the 1850s, Ponson Du Terril sought to emulate The Mysteries of Paris with his Les Drames de Paris series, which inevitably morphed into the Rocambole saga.

In John Devil, the character of Gregory Temple very much anticipates Sherlock Holmes, but the influence seems to be have been indirect.  The key middle man was Emile Gaboriou who started out working for Feval, but then wrote many detective novels of his own.  Chiefly the Monsieur Lecoq series, Lecoq is cited by name in the first Holmes novel.  Nick Carter who was created about the same time also has about the same roots.

All of these French novels and writers were an influence on later writers like Gaston Leroux (Cheri-Bibi, Phantom of The Opera and Rouletible), Maurice Leblanc (Arsene Lupin) and Marcel Allain & Pierre Souvestre (Fantomas).  And in turn on early silent serials like the Fantomas adaptations, Les Vampires, Judex and Belphagor ect.

On the Penny Dreadful connection.  One character who's existence is probably just a coincidence but still worth noting is The Human Bat.

The known and confirmed immediate artistic influences on Batman were 1, Superman who editors wanted a repeat of, 2, Kane being visually inspired by Silent films like The Bat, and The Man Who Laughs which was in turn an adaptation of one of Victor Hugo's later novel.  Brian Stableford suggests that novel owes a slight debt to Paul Feval.  3. Bill Finger who actually wrote the stories was mainly drawing on Sherlock Holmes, Zorro, Dick Tracey, The Shadow and similar pulp character like The Spider, and perhaps a bit from hard boiled Detective novels like those of Hammett and Chandler.

Zorro's name being a Spanish word for Fox is further evidence to me his roots go back to Paul Feval's Le Loup Blanc, and it's prequel La Louve.  The former had three English translations in the mid 1800s all called The White Wolf.  Other swashbucklers Feval wrote that are similar and had English translations were Le Bossu and The Three Red Knights: or, The Brothers' Vengeance.

I agree with Rick Lai that the immediate roots of The Shadow lie chiefly in The Phantom of The Opera, Arsene Lupin, and Judex.  But I'd also add Nick Carter.

Let's talk about Batman's villains a bit.  Hugo Strange actually appeared first of the recurring villains.  In his very first appearance he wasn't mainly a Mad Scientist which modern depictions focus on.  He was explicitly a Moriarty figure.  And Moriarty was inspired by criminals Lecoq faced and in turn by Feval villains.

I actually did a post about The French History of The Femme Fatale, in which I mentioned French predecessors for both Catwoman and Poison Ivy, chiefly Irma Vep of Les Vampires for the former.  Thing is though Catwoman didn't wear a costume at all in her first appearance, the original Catwoman has been described as being like a female Arsene Lupin.  The Lupin novels themselves arguably more then once toyed with the idea of a female Lupin, as I also hinted at in the Femme Fatale post.

The Penguin has also been compared to Dick Tracey villains like Broadway Bates.  But I feel a key predecessor of The Penguin was Gutman from The Maltese Falcone, who looks more like The Penguin in the 1931 film version then he does in the more well known 1941 version.

Batman and Superman have both changed a lot from how they were in the earliest of their Golden Age stories.  I personally think that's for the best with Batman yet lament it with Superman.  I certainly love all the expansions of the Superman mythology to come from later writers, but I feel a core piece of the soul of Siegel and Shuster's character has been lost.  Which is why I still feel the best Live Action Superman is George Reeves and the best Animated the Fleischer Shorts, but even there what I'm referring to is already fading, The Champion of The Oppressed.

I think my justification for that different perspective is partly because Batman was a more blatantly derivative character.  Siegel and Shuster had to fight for years to get a publisher to take a chance on Superman, while Batman was the product of an editorial mandate to recreate the success of Superman, just like so many works made in the wake of the Mysteries of Paris.

Not to say Superman wasn't also influenced by earlier fiction/mythology.  Comparisons to Pulp adventurers like Doc Savage and that one accused Superman of ripping off are common.  And Siegel and Shuster's goal was partly to create a modern Samson but with an origin that was a SciFi version of Moses.  The connection to Samson in turn causes comparisons to other mythical strongmen from Herakles/Hercules to Machiste.  And the origin story I feel happens to resemble Perseus more then Moses.

But the point is Superman was from the start clearly distinct from his literary ancestors, while Batman's distinctive traits had to be developed by later writers.  Like Frank Robbins, Denny O'Neil, Marv Wolfman, Chuck Dickson, Jeph Leob, Greg Rouka and Gail Simone.  And while they're a mixed bag we can't overlook Frank Miller, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison.  And plenty of what's been done in other media was important too.

But of course it's not just the Golden Age writers who drew on earlier stories.  Later Batman writers first off drew on earlier Batman stories.  But also in the 70s there was a lot of James Bond influence, Ra's Al Ghl is a product of that.  And later Nolan cited James Bond influence for Batman Begins (which was also novelized by O'Neil) Heat and Clockwork Orange for The Dark Knight, and Joseph Campbell and Star Wars for Rises.  But I feel the James Bond books themselves owe a debt to Batman, particularly the villain Goldfinger who has a very Penguin vibe to me, or at least based on the same earlier characters as The Penguin.

Jeph Leob's The Long Halloween was in Batman canon a simultaneous sequel to Miller's Year One and reworking of aspects of Eye of The Beholder.  But he was also drawing on The Godfather films, Raymond Chandler novels like The Long Goodbye which inspired the name, and Silence of The Lambs.  And Tim Burton shared Bob Kane's love of old German Expressionism Silent Films, and thus we see plenty of Cabinet of Dr Caligari in Batman Returns.

And even those influences can still be traced back at least partly to these French Authors I'm such a Fanboy for.

I haven't read Gotham by Gaslight yet, but from the premise I'm already disappointed.  Things like using Jack The Ripper rather then normal Batman villains isn't what I want.  For starters I would like these 19th century literary roots of Batman to be looked at in how to adapt him for a period piece.  And then the fact that Teddy Roosevelt was once New York police Commissioner makes using him as inspiration for Gordon seem natural.

But also I saw Gangs of New York a few weeks ago, and it has somethings in common with how I'd imagine a 19th Century Batman story.  Daniel Day Lewis character could make a good model for The Penguin, and Cameron Diaz for Catwoman, and Twede for Rupert Throne.

Years ago I saw a documentary on The History channel about Crime in Ancient Rome, the main host/narrator of the show seemed similar to me to Keith Scott from One Tree Hill, but I don't know if it was really the same actor.  That naturally got my mind spinning about how you could do Batman in Ancient Rome.  But now I'm well off the main subject of this post.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Noir, my favoerite Anime, or up there.

Noir held the title of my favorite Anime for a long time.

It was not exactly but kinda my introduction to Anime.  A 90s kid can be into Pokemon, Sailor Moon and Dragonball Z without being a proper Otaku at all, they were really mainstream.  Noir was the first Anime I watched that the kids I went to school with probably hadn't.  And it's theme song probably the first time I ever heard singing in the Japanese language.

Until like 2 or 3 years ago there were probably less then 10 Animes I was intimately familiar with.  Then I watched Madoka Magica and Utena, and Utena became my favorite Anime, and since then I've watched a lot of Anime, I'm getting to the point where Anime is almost all I want to watch anymore.

Sometimes though I go a long time without watching the very things I consider my favorites.  And so this last week I watched Noir again for the first time since I discovered Utena and Madoka and for awhile before that really.  And I quickly found myself wondering if it has regained the top spot.

Utena is much more ambitious and intricate as a work of high art.  But Noir is much more re-watchable for me personally.  Back in the day I would restart right after finishing, and now I find myself in that place again even as I have a wider variety of Anime to choose from.

I still haven't watched Noir in the original Japanese.  Maybe it's time I did view it Subbed rather then Dubbed if I'm going to re-label it my favorite.

Utena however requires my undivided attention far too much for me to ever feel the Sub is worth investing my time into.

First thing I noticed about Madoka when I watched it the first time was how much the Music felt conceptually similar to Noir, and indeed I learned it had the same Music director.  Madoka is also closer to Noir then Utena in how re-watchable it is for me.  I've still gone though all of Utena only once.

Maybe it's simply that I'm just Nostalgic for Noir and Madlax in a way I can't be for any Anime besides the 90s big three.  It wasn't brand new when I first watched it, it was like 2005 or 2006, but that's a decade now.

I'm disappointed Bee Train's Girls With Guns trilogy hasn't gotten the kind of Youtube attention many other Anime has.  There was one Abridged series of Noir that covered only the first 4 episodes, and that's it from the abridgers.  And there are some AMVs and a couple reviews.  But no YTPs or Crack videos, or Mash Ups to the trailers of The Dark Knight films or Star Wars films or Mean Girls.  I frankly think Friday-Monday would make a perfect to mash up to Ledger's Joker.

Maybe they're just in a bizarre place where they kind of predate the births of many of those trends and yet for most still don't have the Nostalgia value of 90s Anime?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Benevolent Dragons and Tolkien.

Tolkien's mythology as he wrote it being very Western had only Evil Dragons.

Contrary to how some may make it sound it's not solely because of The Bible the West tends to view Dragons/Serpents as Evil (in fact there is overlooked Biblical support for good Dragons). It comes from Ophion, Hydra and Ketos of Greek Mythology, Jormungander and Niohoggr of Norse Mythology, and the Grendles and Dragons of Beowulf.

Eastern Mythology usually has Dragons as Benevolent, though Japan has some evil ones too. Many are Dragon Kings who rule the seas.

Since we are always interested in expanding and diversifying Tolkien's world, (as detailed as he was he did leave plenty to the imagination). I've contemplated how hypothetically possible it could be to put Benevolent Dragons in Arda.

The origins of the Dragons that served Morgoth are not directly explained, a common theory is the originals were fallen Maia who Morgoth then bred. That Glarung seems to be equal in rank to both Sauron and Gothmog, (both Maia, one a leader of other Maia), suggests to me he's probably a Maia. Which has me thinking that if an evil Maia could take that form, there is no reason a good Maia couldn't take a similar form.

So perhaps there could be Benevolent Dragons known in the far Eastern lands of Arda, to the East of anything seen on LOTR's maps. Perhaps something like Valoo from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. In one scene Valoo and the Rito pretty much serve the same function as the Eagles.

Someone already wrote on Fan Fiction for that concept.

If you're curious about my Biblical statement. For Starters Jesus used the Brazen Serpent that Moses raised up in the wilderness as a symbol of himself.   The Hebrew word Seraph is used in that account where it is made a synonym for Nahash (Serpent in Genesis 3), Isaiah described Seraphim circling the Throne of Yahuah, leading many to think of the term as a synonym for Cherubim. Also in Job, God speaks of Behemoth and Leviathan as creations he's very proud of.  All these words can also be linked to Satan (except Behemoth), but Satan was one of 5 Cherubim, the other 4 didn't fall.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The BlackCoatPress website was revamped a couple months ago

So I realized I should provide some new linked to the Tales of The Shadowmen volumes I have stories published in, since the old Links don't work anymore.

I've had Three Published already in Volumes 10, 11 and 12.  So far my story has always been last thanks to my surname.

And it seems likely my new story will be in Volume 13 which comes out this December.

edited by J-M. & R. Lofficier
cover by Michel Borderie

US$23.95/GBP 15.99 - 6x9 tpb, 300 p. - ISBN-13: 978-1-61227-578-9

Jason Scott Aiken: Galazi in the Enchanted City
Matthew Baugh: A Dollar’s Worth of Fists
Adam Mudman Bezecny: Harry’s Homecoming
Nicholas Boving: The Aquila Curse
Nathan Cabaniss: From Paris with Hate
Matthew Dennion: A Purpose in Life
Brian Gallagher: The Berlin Vampire
Martin Gately: Rouletabille Rides the Horror Express
Micah Harris: The Goat of Saint Elster
Travis Hiltz: The Island of Exodus
Paul Hugli: As Easy as 1, 2, 3...
Rick Lai: Eve of Destruction
Nigel Malcolm: Maximum Speed
Christofer Nigro: Bad Alchemy
John Peel: Time to Kill
Frank Schildiner: The Taking of Frankenstein
Sam Shook: Bringer of the Outer Dark
Michel Stéphan: One Summer Night at Holy Cross
David L. Vineyard: The Moon of the White Wolf
Jared Welch: Styrian Rhapsody

Sang Froid, i.e. Cold Blood!

Doctor Ardan meet the People of the Pole! Doctor Omega teams up with Ki-Gor to find the secret of the Yeti! Maigret, Father Brown and Dr. Watson face a terrifying supernatural threat! Felifax ends up on Dr. Moreau's island. Sâr Dubnotal and the Werewolf of Paris fight the vampires! Arsene Lupin duels with Raffles! Captain Vampire defies the Reds! Rouletabille is trapped on the Mysterious Island! Spiridon investigates a vampire murder in Paris! The Phantom of the Opera finds death in Persia! Sherlock Holmes meets Lecoq and Mephista Leonox!

In this thirteenth volume of Tales of the Shadowmen, the only anthology dedicated to international heroes and villains of pulp literature, writers from Canada, England, France and the United States, pay homage to those great champions and master criminals who enchanted our adolescence.
This one again stars Eugenie Danglars and Louise d'Armilly, this time they encounter Carmilla, The Lesbian Vampire.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Stephanie Brown and Chuck Dixon's politics

I made a post on this blog where I observed how surprisingly sometimes conservatives writers treat women better then male liberal writers, which was a follow up to one of my Paul Feval posts.  This post is essentially me adding one more example to that observation.  Once again, I'm making these observations as a Liberal of sorts, a Left Leaning Libertarian-Communist SJW.

Chuck Dixon is one of the more notorious examples of a rare conservative Comic Book writer, probably the most notorious example of one to write for Batman (calling Frank Miller a conservative is a massive oversimplification).  Rumor has it he used to have heated political arguments with Denny O'Neil, I imagine Gun Control is the only issue where I'd side with Dixon over O'Neil.

Chuck Dixon created my favorite Batman character, who is obviously then also my favorite female Batman character, and second favorite Comic Book character over all.  Stephanie Brown aka The Spoiler, formally known as both Robin and Batgirl.

In addition to creating Stephanie, there are other women he didn't create but who largely become how fans of my generation and a little older remember them mostly in comics Dixon wrote, from Sarah Essen to Helena Bertinelli.  The earliest Bertinelli stories were pretty much writing her the same as the later Helena Wayne stories (they had the same writer I've heard), it was Dixon who made her distinct.  He was also heavily involved in the early success of Birds of Prey before Gail Simone took over and they reached their height.  He also co-wrote Batgirl Year One, which I heard Gail Simone tried to convince DC/WB to make an Animated Movie for.

But I mainly want to talk about Stephanie.  Chuck Dixon wrote the three part story that introduced her in 1992 in Detective Comics, and wrote the Tim Drake Robin title for the first 100 issues, he may have took some months off, I'm not sure, but he was the main writer in charge.  Stephanie never got to be Robin in a story Dixon wrote, but behind the scenes he had been championing her becoming Robin for a long time.  That the very first Robin Comic after Dixon left featured an alternate reality with Steph as Robin is probably still the influence of where Dixon wanted to go.

Steph's pregnancy storyline is possibly the only time Dixon's politics seemed to influence his writing.  The narrative doesn't outright condemn Abortion, but he heavily stresses how Steph was firmly opposed to taking that option.

In general Dixon's Batman writing is considered the best of 90s Batman.  Though it's perhaps not a coincidence that many's main criticism of him is being unwilling to give villains sympathy or depth, which is especially egregious when he wrote Two-Face.

The friendship between Stephanie and Cassandra Cain also started on Dixon's watch.  I wonder what thoughts he'd have on the popularity of shipping them?

Almost immediately after Dixon left, the direction Stephanie's story was going took a sharp turn.  She was finally officially being trained by Batman, then out of the blue he tries forcing her to quit.  Helena and the Birds of Prey were in good hands with Gail Simone, but for Stephanie all her fans feel she was horribly mistreated from now till she got her Batgirl run, then she got screwed over again by Barry Allen's Time Boom.

The War Games storyline (and others connected to it) is one I happen to really like, the premise is one I can't believe it took Batman writers so long to think of, and it's filled with wonderful character moments and a sense of escalating tension that anticipates TDK.  But the treatment of Stephanie is horrible, it's textbook fridging, and most of my fellow Stephanie fans are incapable of forgiving the story for that.

And even during the build up to that story, it seems DC was obsessed with foreshadowing the idea that Stephanie will be the next Jason Todd.

I wonder how many Stephanie Brown fans who lament Dixon's exit know he's a Conservative?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I saw Captain America Civil War finally

It was entertaining.  But like any versus movie it frustrated me, and it not being as endlessly dark as BvS isn't enough to make this movie based on far inferior source material a superior movie.

Here's what I find funny though.  Age of Ultron had a lot of material dedicated to assuring us there were NO Civilian Casualties, all for the purpose of sticking it to Man of Steel and appealing to that film's haters, and I criticized that aspect of it at the time.  And now they did this storyline which is entirely dependent on there being civilian casualties.  So it's like they are reveling they lied to us before.