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MY FRIEND DAHMER

My Friend Dahmer cover

John “Derf” Backderf, whose Trashed I reviewed earlier this week (see below) is more widely known for his previous graphic novel, My Friend Dahmer, which is about the real-life rapist, murderer, and cannibal who attracted national renown in 1978-9 -- and who happened to have been a classmate of Derf's.

A major motion picture of the same name, based on Derf's book, is scheduled for release on September 29th.

 

 

 

Here is a trailer for the film:

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

LYNDA CARTER DEFENDS WONDER WOMAN

Wonder WomenAfter just two months with the UN last fall, Wonder Woman lost her gig at the United Nations as a symbol of self-empowerment for girls and women. Too many observers thought she was more pin-up than feminist icon and therefore not a suitable symbol at the U.N. Alex Williams reported at nytimes.com that “a United Nations spokesman said the campaign had merely run its course, and that the end had nothing to do with the uproar” that ensued when Wonder Woman was first announced as an ambassador for women and girls and for gender equality.

But “one loyalist was not going to sit by as her cape was dragged through the mud: Lynda Carter, the actress who starred in the 1970s television show “Wonder Woman,” came to the Amazon’s defense.

Now 65, Carter took time from acting (including a role as the U.S. President on “Supergirl” and a governor in the coming film “Super Troopers 2”) and career as a singer (she just competed a four-city tour and is recording her third studio album) to discuss the complex legacy of her Amazon princess alter ego. In an edited and condensed interview with Williams, Carter recognized at the onset the disagreement about what a feminist icon should look like:

“What I find interesting is that they didn’t look at the larger picture. I agree that the issue of gender equality is much larger than any character is, and I understand that a comic book character should not be representative of something that is that important. I agree with that. What I disagree with is this [mistaken] idea about Wonder Woman. She’s an iconic defender. She’s archetypal. It’s the ultimate sexist thing to say that’s all you can see, when you think about Wonder Woman, all you can think about is a sex object.”

About Wonder Woman’s skimpy costume, Carter was a little belligerent:

“Yeah, so?” she said. “Superman had a skintight outfit that showed every little ripple, didn’t he? Doesn’t he have a great big bulge in his crotch? Hello! So why don’t they complain about that? And who says Wonder Woman is ‘white’? I’m half-Mexican. Gal Gadot is Israeli. The character is an Amazonian princess, not ‘American.’ They’re trying to put her in a box, and she’s not in a box.”

(Er, I don’t see the super bulge that Carter sees at Superman’s crotch. Could she be imagining things? Things she wishes for?)

Lynda Carter photoAbout her own stint in the star-spangled scanties: “If you think of the ’70s, that was miniskirts and bikinis. I never really thought of Wonder Woman as a super-racy character. She wasn’t out there being predatory. She was saying: ‘You have a problem with a strong woman? I am who I am, get over it.’ I never played her as mousy. I played her being for women, not against men. For fair play and fair pay.”

Why did “Wonder Woman” on TV “strike a chord with girls watching the show”?

“There was this idea that inside every woman is a secret self. It’s much less about the color of your skin, much less about your height or weight or beauty, but it’s the attitude, the strength of character, the fight for rights — the beauty within, the wisdom within.”

Carter attributes her post-Wonder Woman struggles with alcohol to her bad marriage not post-fame blues. Drinking brought solace at the time, she said, “but now it’s coming up on 20 years since I’ve been sober.”

Asked about her inspiration for the presidential role she assumed in “Supergirl,” Carter said: “It was Hillary. I’ve known Hillary Clinton for 35 years. She is the kindest, most wonderful human being. She has an infectious personality and smile and warmth and personality and true nature. She grew up in a time where you had a be a certain way to be taken seriously. Now you can be whoever you want. You don’t have to be serious. You can be feminine and powerful at the same time.”

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

GAITY IN MALAYSIA IN "BEAUTY AND THE BEAST"

Beauty and the Beast stillMalaysian censors recently ruled that a brief, gay-themed scene in the movie involving two male characters dancing promoted homosexuality, but Walt Disney Studios refused to cut the scene, meaning the film did not open there on March 16 as scheduled. The sequence, reported Reuters, is said to be three seconds long.

“The film has not been and will not be cut for Malaysia,” Disney said in a statement on March 14 without elaborating.

The film is a live-action remake of Disney’s 1991 animated blockbuster of the same name. The film’s director, Bill Condon, confirmed that the scene in question — involving a character named LeFou, manservant to the villain, Gaston — is an “exclusively gay moment.”

Oddly (as either John Oliver or Bill Maher — forgot which — observed), the Malaysians have no objection to bestiality —a  woman falling in love with an animal. THE FILM IS PROMOTING HUMAN-ANIMAL SEX! Where’s the outrage? Geez.

Belle and BeastMalaysia is a Muslim-majority country, and sodomy is illegal there, although the law is seldom enforced. The capital, Kuala Lumpur, has a thriving gay community.

With about 30 million people, Malaysia is a small part of Disney’s overall audience. But the movie has experienced other hesitancies elsewhere.

Russia agreed finally to let “Beauty and the Beast” be shown there, but it barred children under 16 from attending unless accompanied by someone over 16. A Russian lawmaker had called for it to be banned entirely, saying it was “blatant, shameless propaganda of sin.”

Kuwait, another Muslim-majority country, pulled the film from cinemas after it had been showing for almost a week. Again, the cause was concern over the gay scene. Nobody minds that this bimbo is fucking a horny buffalo.

Right: no one really minds. Brooks Barnes at nytimes.com reports that “Beauty and the Beast” achieved “an astounding $170 million in ticket sales at North American theaters over its opening weekend (March17-19). That total broke multiple Hollywood records, including one set last year by ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ for the biggest March opening.”

Back in Malaysia, the authorities ultimately overturned the Film Censorship Board’s earlier ban against “Beauty”: the movie opened, nation-wide, on March 30. Perhaps tourism played a part in the reversal: Tourism Minister Nazri Aziz, reports Richard Paddock at nytimes.com, objected to the prohibition, calling it “ridiculous. ... You don’t ban a film because of a gay character,” he said. “All these years even without the gay character in the ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ there are also gays in the world. I don’t think it is going to influence anyone” (to become homosexual).

Meanwhile, in the ensuing days, another American-made movie, “Power Rangers,” has apparently escaped B&B’s fate: the movie is the first big budget superhero movie to have an LGBT protagonist, but it got a green light from Malaysia’s censors until they found out that the Yellow Ranger, Trini, may be lesbian. The censors wanted to have another look. But, perhaps cowed by international outcry over the B&B censorship, they let “Power Rangers” slip into the country’s theaters, unscathed, reports Patrick Brzeski at hollywoodreporter.com.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

WHITHER THE SIMPSONS?

David-silvermanOn a Sunday last fall, October 16, “The Simpsons celebrated its 600th episode, just 35 airings shy of the record for the most episodes of an American scripted prime-time show held by “Gunsmoke.” And this achievement prompted Michael Cavna at ComicRiffs.com to wonder: so when is the show finally going to ride off into the Springfield sunset?

“Never!” replies a laughing David Silverman, the longtime “Simpsons” producer who has been there since the very beginning, animating the interstitial shorts when the Simpsons debuted in 1987 on “The Tracey Ullman Show.”

“We don’t want it to end,” he says. ‘Keep it going!’ 600? I say: ‘1,000! Do I hear 2,000!'”

For the sake of comparison, as well as inspiration, Silverman cites the run of Looney Tunes, the classic animated comedy shorts from Warner Bros that spanned 1930 to 1969.

David Silverman drawing“It wasn’t that they were running out of ideas, per se,” says Silverman, citing Tex Avery’s Oscar-nominated “A Wild Hare” (1940) as the pinnacle of Looney Tunes animation. “They just ran out of a delivery system."

The Warner Bros. Cartoons studio closed as the ’70s dawned, marking the end of the “golden age” of animation.

“For ‘The Simpsons,’ so far, we haven’t run out of the delivery system,” notes Silverman, whose show holds the record for most seasons (27) of an American scripted prime-time show, with the renewal already announced for season 28.“I don’t know what’s going to happen to the future of home entertainment,” he continues, “but I think there’s always going to be some aspect of the big TV screen.”

“I don’t know why you’d stop it,” says Silverman of “The Simpsons,” which was co-created by Matt Groening, James L. Brooks and the late Sam Simon. “We’re having a great time.”

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

THE INHERENT CONTRADICTION IN FEMALE SUPERHEROES

Among the enthusiasts for comic book superhero movies are numbered a few heedlessly carping devotees who persist in demanding a superhero movie with a superheroine headlining the feature. Lately in the Denver Post, professor (at Colorado Mesa University) Michael Conklin discussed this oddity at some length.

He began by listing several female lead comic book movies from 1984 through 2005 (“Supergirl” through “Elektra”) that were failures at the box office — and among fans. None of them compared to the financial success of what he calls “the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”

Marvel, he notes, “is a fairly progressive company” in terms of representing diversity: “Their current best-selling comic book features a hero of color, the Black Panther. Another major character in comics, Ms. Marvel Kamala Khan, is a Muslim-America.” And Thor is presently a woman. And “there are so many LGBT characters in Marvel Comics that you can find top 10 lists of people’s favorites.”

But heroines won’t become a mainstay in movies unless they are profitable, Conklin continues. And he goes on to provide this devastating analysis:

Mystique vs“Ironically, a recent controversy brought on by people purporting to protect women lends support to the diminished roles for female superheroes. A billboard promoting the new X-Men movie features Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Mystique, going up against the main villain, Apocalypse. Instead of praising the advertisement for featuring a female hero, [activists] attacked [it] for portraying violence against women because the main villain is male [sort of] and Mystique is female [sort of — they’re both mutants of some kind].

“Not surprisingly, superhero movies depict violence against the hero. If movie studios are put on notice that this is unacceptable for female characters, that perpetuates the role of men as the superheroes by creating a strong incentive to instead use women in traditional, damsel-in-distress roles.”

So putting female superheroes on screen will be “an even greater uphill battle if activists groups attack studios for promoting women in traditionally male roles” — which, ipso facto, will necessitate violence against women, violence initiated, of course, by those nasty villains..

Sigh. You can’t win.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

THE ULTIMATE VALIDATION OF COMIC BOOKS

Enertainment Weekly 12-2-16Now that the movie business has established the cultural worth of comic books for everyone except the National Book Awards, Entertainment Weekly has begun to pay attention to more than just the summer extravaganza in San Diego. In the December 2nd issue (with a cover story about the next Star Wars movie), a new funnybook by “two of the most exciting comic-book creators, Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire” is fulsomely plugged. A.D., “a compelling mix of comics, art and storytelling,” is a “beautiful new series that explores a world in which death has been eliminated.” Another title in a lengthening roster of good comics—well drawn and well told in a blend of words and pictures — on mature (i.e., thoughtful) themes.

And comics even intruded in EW’s year-end “Best of 2016" issue, December 16/23. “Entertainer of the Year” is Ryan Reynolds — for his portrayal of smart-ass potty-mouth Deadpool, no less. And Benedict Cumberbatch is among the other top twelve “entertainers of the year” for his Dr. Strange as well as Sherlock Holmes.

Among the year’s best movies, “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice” is listed because of the way breakout actress Gal Gadot plays Wonder Woman. And “Captain America: Civil War” is tenth in the top ten movies of 2016.

This commemorating issue even lists the Best Comic Book series of the year — Black Panther (Best New Series), Bitch Planet (Best Returning) DC Comics Rebirth series (Best Reboot), Monstress (Best Ongoing), and Goldie Vance (Best All-Ages). But there’s no “best graphic novel”category.

Entertainment Weekly Best of 2016 coverFinally, in reporting the reading recommended by various entertainment dignitaries (Emma Watson, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and Kerry Washington among others), the magazine cites Sarah Jessica Parker, who recommends Tintin in Tibet by Herge.

But I don’t want to give up on EW’s best of the year without pausing to note that the magazine recorded the “most bizarre auction item” — Truman Capote’s cremains, which, “ensconced in a wooden Japanese box, sold for $43,750.” Ewww.

Further evidence of EW’s allegiance with the comic book world, subscription renewal forms that arrived last month offered a bonus for subscribing by December 3rd — superhero t-shirts featuring (your choice) the Flash, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman or Super Friends. Talk about uptown: we’re there!

Stick that in your pipe, National Book Awarders.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

THE WONDER OF IT ALL

Benedict Cumberbatch made the cover of October 21/28's Entertainment Weekly as Doctor Strange, eponymous protagonist of Marvel Studio’s new film (out November 4), but the Sorcerer Supreme ranks only 26 in the cover story’s list of “The 50 Most Powerful Superheroes.” No surprise perhaps, but Superman is merely 4th on the list. The surprise is Number One: topping the list by three tenths of a point is Wonder Woman. Then, in order, the rest of the top ten — Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, Wolverine, Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Black Panther, and The Flash.

PowerFifty

To find the fifty most powerful of the skin-tights, the editors of EW devised a 100-point system that rated each character in nine categories: Cultural Impact, Bankability, Design, Modern Relevance, Mythology, Nemeses, Originality, Personality, and Powers. Each category was worth a maximum of 10 points except Cultural Impact: “The power of a superhero is defined most by this quality, so we measured it on a 20-point scale to tilt the final list in favor of characters who have the deepest cultural footprint.” The editors then assembled “a team of EW’s superhero experts and had them score 155 characters in each category.” Those scores were averaged and combined to create “an overall power total for each character.”

Wonder Woman scored 90.3 out of a possible 100. Spider-Man scored 90.0; Batman, 89.7; Superman, 87.2. Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman scored 20 in the Cultural Impact category; Spider-Man, only 18. Wonder Woman rated only 9.3 in Bankability; the other top four each got 10 points.

Superman ranked highest in Powers (9.7 out of a possible 10), Spider-Man in Personality (9.7), Wonder Woman in Originality (9.3 — ahhh, William Marston’s juicy menage a trois scores again), Batman in Nemeses (10) and Mythology (9.7), Wonder Woman and Batman in Modern Relevance (10 each), Batman in Design (9.3; Wonder Woman scored only 8.3; Superman, a mere 7.3).

Wonder Woman ranked first in only three categories; Batman scored highest in five (Spider-Man in two, and Superman in three). So how did Wonder Woman win? Probably because she scored so high in Originality—9.3 compared to the next highest, 8.0 for both Batman and Superman; that’s 1.3 points higher than her closest competitors in that category.

And she won by only 0.3 more than Spider-Man, who was second.

A cursory count gives Marvel 33 of the 50 characters; three of the remaining 17 are from publishers other than the Big Two (Hellboy, Buffy, and Raphael of the Ninja Turtles), leaving DC with only 14 of the top 50. Clearly, EW’s “superhero experts” are of the generation that was mesmerized by Marvel funnybook characters in the sixties and seventies or by the Marvel Studio movies of the last decade or so.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

FIRST MAJOR BIG-SCREEN GAY SUPERHERO?

Princess Diana of ThemysciraFor those hoping to see a little more diversity in superhero films, there is now a sliver of hope. The writer of Wonder Woman’s current comic book adventures has confirmed what we pretty much all knew, that Princess Diana of Themyscira is bisexual.

“Yes,” replied Greg Rucka when the Guardian’s Ben Child asked whether his revamped version of the Amazonian warrior was queer.

“I think it’s more complicated though,” he said. “This is inherently the problem with Diana: we’ve had a long history of people – for a variety of reasons, including sometimes pure titillation, which I think is the worst reason – say, ‘Ooo. Look. It’s the Amazons. They’re gay!’

“And when you start to think about giving the concept of Themyscira its due, the answer is, ‘How can they not all be in same sex relationships?’ Right? It makes no logical sense otherwise.

“It’s supposed to be paradise. You’re supposed to be able to live happily. You’re supposed to be able – in a context where one can live happily, and part of what an individual needs for that happiness is to have a partner – to have a fulfilling, romantic and sexual relationship. And the only options are women. But an Amazon doesn’t look at another Amazon and say, ‘You’re gay.’ They don’t. The concept doesn’t exist.”

Rucka’s right, Child said. “No one should be too surprised that Wonder Woman likes women when she lives in a single-sex feminist utopia. But there are also strong historical reasons why the superhero should be considered proudly queer.

“Wonder Woman was created in 1941 by the American psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston, a famously leftfield, not to mention rather creepy, thinker on matters of sexuality and feminism who, as documented in Jill Lepore’s 2014 book The Secret History of Wonder Woman, lived in a menage a trois (and sometimes more) with his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston (often considered the superhero’s co-creator) and their lover and cohabitant Olive Byrne. Both women have been cited as inspirations for the character, with Elizabeth believed to have contributed her famous phrase ‘Suffering Sappho!’ and Olive her looks.”

Though born of male bondage fantasies, Wonder Woman still emerges as a frontrunner of emancipation in this impressive account, writes Catherine Bennett.

And Child asks: Will monster director Patty Jenkins, who’s overseeing the new Wonder Woman movie, be brave enough to incorporate her subject’s queer identity, thereby making her the first major big-screen gay superhero?

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

NOBODY'S FOOL

Nobody’s Fool
By Bill Griffith

Schlitzie the Pinhead
Schlitzie the Pinhead, from FREAKS

Griffith, creator of the comic strip Zippy the Pinhead, interviewed by Bill O’Driscoll at pghcitypaper, talked about his new graphic novel undertaking: “[It’s] called Nobody’s Fool,” said Griffith, “and the subtitle is ‘The Life and Times of Schlitzie the Pinhead.’ [Sideshow performer] Schlitzie is the original inspiration for Zippy. It’s a real person.

“I first saw Schlitzie in [Todd Browning’s 1932 film] ‘Freaks,’” Giffith continued, “— actually that’s the only place to really see Schlitzie. … I was lucky enough to find his last manager, [who] lives in Florida. And I found a guy my age who traveled throughout Canada in a circus sideshow in 1968, when Schlitzie was in his last year of performing, and had wonderful, wonderful stories, that really made Schlitzie come to life. … Without those two interviews, those two people, I really wouldn’t have had a book. … It would have been all guesswork.”

Zippy-Bill Griffith photo

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

FIRST ISSUE: POWER MAN AND IRON FIST

An admirable first issue must, above all else, contain such matter as will compel a reader to buy the second issue. At the same time, while provoking curiosity through mysteriousness, a good first issue must avoid being so mysterious as to be cryptic or incomprehensible. And, thirdly, it should introduce the title’s principals, preferably in a way that makes us care about them. Fourth, a first issue should include a complete “episode”—that is, something should happen, a crisis of some kind, which is resolved by the end of the issue, without, at the same time, detracting from the cliffhanger aspect of the effort that will compel us to buy the next issue.

MORE ADVANCE NOTICE FOR A MOVIE

Power Man and Iron Fist coverPower Man and Iron Fist are back in funnybooks because there’s a movie on the horizon. (Right: a Netflix flick; see below.) Danny Rand (aka Iron Fist) wants to revive their team-up but Luke Cage (Power Man) doesn’t. That’s the on-going joke, and it lasts for both of the two issues out so far. The adventure gets underway when Jennie Royce, former office manage for Heroes for Hire, gets out of prison and wants them to retrieve her grandmother’s necklace, which was taken from her by Lonnie Lincoln (aka Tombstone, boss of organized crime north of 110th Street), who (she says) mistook the necklace for some of the late Eugene Mason’s stash which Lonnie took because Eugene owed him money.

But Jennie is lying. The necklace is a mysterious and powerful trinket (containing the supersoul stone) that Jennie gives to Mariah Dillard (aka Black Mariah), who plans to use the necklace to take over Lonnie’s operation. By the second issue, Lonnie is sending his goons after Iron Fist and Power Man to recover the necklace. And fisticuffs ensue. (Again. They were required in the first issue to extract the necklace from Lonnie.)

Because the title characters are old timers in the Marvel stable, we scarcely need a first issue that acquaints us with them — even though under the new rubric, neither Power Man nor Iron Fist are quite the same serious personages they once were. The running joke about teaming up or not defines their personalities: Luke resists Danny’s insistence, and Danny tries to be irresistible, joking and grinning all the way.

David Walker is telling the tale here, but it’s Sanford Greene’s drawing that gives the title panache. His linework is scratchy, which lends the visuals a happy loose feel. And in rendering Luke Cage, he produces a massive figure, a colossus of a man, massive muscles on the cusp of overweightedness. That’s a satisfying visual appeal, and the scratchiness enhances it all.

The title is a step away from Deadpool nonsense, but I can’t help feeling that the jokey dialogue between Luke and Danny is an attempt to mimic the fun time atmosphere of those titles.

ABOUT THE IRON FIST MOVIE: It’s a Netflix series with “Game of Thrones” actor Finn Jones in the title role. Entertainment Weekly reports that he is training for the role, his daily routine “consists of hours of martial-arts practice (kung fu and wushu mixed with a bit of tai chi) followed by lifting weights (“to bulk me up”) and meditation and Buddhist philosophy studies. Says Jones: “I’ve always dreamed of a role that bridged spiritual discipline and badass superhero. There’s a contradiction in those elements that’s going to be very fun to play.”

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

A WATERSHED YEAR FOR DIVERSITY?

War Machine

"Superheroes have stood astride the American pop-culture landscape for eight decades,” said Michael Cavna at the Washington Post’s Comic Riffs, “but racial diversity has largely been left in the margins. So while we have had black superheroes for much of that time now, in the movie adaptations their roles have often been secondary. That’s why 2016 feels like a watershed year.

“May’s ‘Captain America: Civil War’ is the first mainstream movie to co-star three black superheroes: War Machine (played by Don Cheadle), the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). That same month, ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ will spotlight Storm (Alexandra Shipp); and in August, DC Comics’ ‘Suicide Squad’ will be led by Viola Davis and Will Smith. The quintessentially American art form that is superhero comics is embracing fictive worlds that look like America itself. And in 2016, black capes matter,” Cavna concludes.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

SUPERHERO MOVIES CORRUPT THE COMICS

EW April 2016 coverWhy the resurrection of all these second- and third-tier characters? Easy: movies. Riding the surge of Hollywood’s and the public’s apparent fascination with movies about comic book superheroes, Marvel and DC need more superheroes than their rosters of first tier characters provide. How many more Batman movies can be manufactured out of Bruce Wayne’s poignant history as the haunted surviving witness of his parents’ death by murder, which scarred him psychologically. You can do only a few Avengers movies before invention flags and public interest fades. So, you need more characters.

Rather than invent some new ones — who would have no built-in fan base — it’s cannier for eventual marketing to excavate the past for heroes no longer exactly on everyone’s mind, but, at least however vaguely remembered, more familiar than new strangers. Admittedly, neither Black Panther nor Moon Knight are relics of the distant past (like, say, the Shield?), so they have some sort of fan base out there — enough that they can be recruited to join other, more visible characters, in a new movie. Or, even, soloing like Doctor Strange. But bringing them back first via comic books is a wannabe cunning gesture at creating a fresh crop of fans in preparation for the debut of a movie appearance.

Superheroes are on the cover of Entertainment Weekly’s “Summer Movie Preview” issue April 22/29, demonstrating, once again, the rise of skintights from four-color pulp to celluloid status: thus, movies have validated the cultural worth of superheroes. If you’re in the movies, you have arrived, culturally speaking.

In the last 25 years, 138 movies have been made of comic book heroes, more — at the rate of several a year — in recent years. Most of the earliest ones simply perpetuated the existing comic book adventurer mythos. But lately, movies of comic book superheroes are corrupting their four-color source. Cultural success — moving out of the subculture of funnybooks onto the big screen — is changing funnybooks and not necessarily for the better.

In the olden days, movie superheroes had to look like their comic book selves. That’s changed. Comic book characters now must look like their movie versions, so their appearance—even their physiognomy — changes as different actors perform the roles. And the changes don’t end there. In the movies, Lois Lane now knows Clark Kent is Superman. That’s a profound alteration of the Superman myth; and now the comic book version must conform.

Costumes change, too. And this is where the greatest corruption occurs. Back at the dawn of time, the movie version of a superhero wore tights just like the funnybook version. But that was the weakest link in the connecting chain: the success of the celluloid incarnation depended entirely on the physique of the actor playing the part: if he didn’t have a muscular body, his interpretation was lame. (And if he had the requisite body, his performance was likelyk to be lame.) Hollywood’s solution to this dilemma was to re-design the costume to mask the physical shortcomings of the actors.

Superman in the movies wears tights that look like they’re made of a kind of chain-mail; Batman wears some sort of body armor; Captain America is wrapped in the straps of a harness; ditto Wonder Woman.

SuperCostumes

And now the artists who render these superheroes in comic books must imitate the movie costume. Superheroes wearing tights were relatively easy to draw: simple figure-drawing did the job. Nowadays, superheroes are harder to draw because their costumes are complicated.

Figure-drawing is no longer good enough in a medium that was built entirely on figure-drawing. Sigh.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

FUNNYBOOK MOVIES

Entertainment Weekly DrComic book superheroes are on the cover of Entertainment Weekly often enough to qualify for a special separate department inside. Early this year, the “Special Double Issue” of January 8/15, was devoted to “sneak peeks at 2016's hottest movies, TV shows, and more.” Right there on the cover — Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange.

I haven’t been particularly fond of Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes lately, but as Doctor Strange he may do very well. I should have expected that something was afoot for Strange when Marvel started yet another new title devoted to the Sorcerer Supreme. The book is clearly intended to pave the fan road to the movie, due in theaters next November. And the movie is undoubtedly going to be an over-the-top feast of special effects — an attempt, I suppose, at reproducing in motion what artists Bachalo, Townsend, and Vey have done so expertly in the comic book.

EW also took a peek at the Batman v Superman flick out in March; “X-Men: Apocalypse,” May; the new season on Netflix’s Daredevil, March; and “Deadpool,” February — more of which, anon:

            ■ “Deadpool,” the movie based upon the Marvel comic book anti-hero, arrived, and Stephen Rebello in Playboy heralded its arrival: “Are you ready for an r-rated, deeply twisted X-men spin-off in which the disfigured ex-Special Forces hero lets you know he’s aware he’s a character in a superhero movie and blurts out whatever is on his sardonically funny mind?” Co-star T.J. Miller says: “Rather than water down the comic book, they ramped it up and went for it. It’s a complex, dense film with comedy so far left of center that it makes fun of comic-book movies. At the same time, it’s a satirical superhero comic-book movie itself.”

            ■ A movie based upon Jules Feiffer’s Playboy cartoon, Bernard and Huey, is en route to the big screen, with an original script and new drawings by Feiffer. Production of the Kickstarter backed comedy was supposed to start in the spring.

            ■ With Disney’s roll-out of a live-action CGI-assisted version of “Alice in Wonderland” comes news that the studio is planing live-action remakes of “Beauty and the Beast” and “Dumbo,” plus spin-offs of other films — “Cruella” from “101 Dalmatians,” “Tinkerbell” from “Peter Pan” — and a sequel to “Jungle Book.” I’d like to see a live elephant with ears big enough to flap like wings. Maybe that’s the CGI-assist part.

            ■ I went to see “Captain America: Civil War” and it was terrible. It was too long. Too many fighting and grunting sequences. And except for Captain America and Iron Man, I didn’t know any of the characters. None were properly introduced. The viewer was wholly disoriented the entire time. This viewer, anyhow. To enjoy — or even follow — the movie, you had to have seen all the other Avenger movies, wherein the same actors portrayed the same iconic characters. Then you’d know who everyone was. I think Scarlett Johansson was Black Widow; she’s called Natasha once. But I’m not sure.

 

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

COXIMOLOGY FORGING AHEAD IN DIGITAL

ComicsX ComixologyFollowing its launch in 2007, ComiXology established itself as the dominant player in digital comics distribution — largely on the strength of its Guided View technology, which offered a more fluid reading experience than previous apps had afforded. Marvel Entertainment and DC Comics adopted Comixology's platform in their digital storefronts.

And in the last week of May, Comixology pulled off a major surprise with the launch of Comixology Unlimited, a monthly subscription service that’s hoping to be the Netflix of comics, the Spotify of sequential art, the Marvel Unlimited of books not published by Marvel.

lex Spencer at comicsalliance.com reports that “the Twitter reaction since the launch suggests the news wasn’t just a surprise to readers, but to many of the creators involved too.”

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

MOVIES FROM COMICS

 

According to a list passed out by my friend Kevin Robinette at his presentation during the Denver Comic-Con last spring, there have been 138 movies based on comics characters in the last 25 years. From Captain America, Death of the Incredible Hulk, Dick Tracy, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 1990 to Antman, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and Fantastic Four and others of the ilk in 2015.

 

Antman poster

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ODDS & ADDENDA: OF WORDS AND SAYINGS

 

McDonald’s and Coco-Cola have a new commercial on TV in which the actors speak in speech balloons. They open their mouths, and a balloon is emitted, making a mildly disgusting “bulup” noise as it balloons out. Words then show up on the balloon. ... The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran’s book of “wise sayings,” has animated many an undergraduate’s mental and moral processes, and was itself recently animated.

 

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

ARCHIVE'S BETTY DISCOVERED

Montana and Tokar photo
Bob Montana and Betty Tokar in the early 1940s.

 

The original of Betty, the girl next door to Archie Andrews, is Betty Tokar Jankovich, once a girlfriend of cartoonist Bob Montana, who invented the Riverdale gang, according to George Gene Gustines at nytimes.com. Discovered by journalist/documentarian Gerald Peary, a passionate Archie fan who set out to find all the inspirations for the Archie characters, Ms. Jankovich at 94 remembers dating Montana. After graduating from high school, she and her sister Helen worked in a cafeteria in the same building that housed MLJ Comics. They met Montana and Harry Lucey, another Archie cartoonist, and they went out on a double date, after which, the couples switched partners, Lucey dating Helen, whom he eventually married. Betty, meanwhile, soon broke off with Montana: “I really liked him,” she said, “but I didn’t think I would be much of an asset to his career — I wasn’t educated enough for him. So we broke up and went our separate ways.” She eventually married the police chief of Perth Amboy. Montana, Betty said, “had a very nice life, and I married a very nice young man. It turned out beautifully.”

See "Archie's Betty," a documentary film by Gerald Peary.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

SUMMER SUPERHEROES: FROM THE AVENGERS TO THE FOUR

An impressive summer season of superhero flicks will be complete with today's release of Fantastic Four.  The series got off to a spectacular start April 30-May 1 with the opening of Avengers: Age of Ultron, which pulled in $84.5 million, besting the $80.8 million debut of the first Avengers film in 2012, according to Disney estimates, which predict the Ultron movie will eventually beat the first Avengers’ all-time record of $207.4 million.

The summer’s supers schedule resumed on May 15 with Mad Max: Fury Road, which was  followed by Jurassic World (June 12), Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out (June 19), Terminator: Genisys (July 1), and Ant-Man (July 17).

 

Fantastic Four movie poster

 

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

THE CRISIS IN THE NEWSPAPER COMIC STRIP KINGDOM : PART 1

 

“Stripped” is the name of cartoonist Dave Kellett’s documentary about the newspaper comic strip industry. Started five years ago and now nearing a final stage with the help of filmmaker Fred Schroeder, the made-for-television program assesses of the current state of the newspaper comic strip and its future. Kellett, who is a webcomics enthusiast and practitioner, admits that he began the project expecting to record the demise of newspaper comics; but as he assembled interviews with cartoonists, he changed his mind: the film now ends on a somewhat more optimistic note — adapt or die, with history showing that adaptation has been part of the medium’s history.

At the New York Times artsbeat.blog, George Gene Gustines describes the film as “a musing on comic strips by many of their creators, how the medium has evolved and the migration to the Internet, some of it forced as the number of newspaper outlets for strips has shrunk and some of it voluntary by a new generation of cartoonists.”

The film itself is fast-moving — quick images of comic characters and strips, a sort of collage in motion, followed by short sentence excerpts from more than 70 interviewed cartoonists on screen, then more collage. Although divided into “chapters” (“The Golden Age,” “The Creative Process,” and “The Crisis”), some of the chapters don’t go very far — “The Golden Age,” for instance, scarcely covers the ground. “The Creative Process” is much better: it offers the most lengthy excerpts from cartoonist interviews.

I’m quoted twice on camera. Once I say only a single word, and I wasn’t quick enough when watching a screening to catch what it was. On the other occasion, I utter this profundity: “I don’t think web comics are the answer” (“comics historian” lettered beneath my picture). And that cryptic comment reveals the film’s most serious flaw. Why don’t I believe that web comics are the answer? What is the answer? Is there one? What’s the question?

Throughout, the film is much the same: there’s little depth. Some of the interviews about the creative process are nicely insightful, but there’s too little thought displayed in assessing the fate of the newspaper comic strip. It’s a subject that deserves — demands —i n-depth examination and discussion. And Kellett provides very little of either.

In short, the film is more dazzle than deliberation. It conveys an impression rather than offering an analysis. But the film is skillfully done, and that is its redeeming feature. Discussing a static artform, printed comic strips, Kellett and Schroeder compensate for the inherent lack of movement with quick cutting and flashing imagery. The flashing images go by quickly — here and then gone. The film is copious rather than thoughtful.

But that ain’t necessarily bad. In presenting and assessing the state of the comic strip universe, the film is friendly and understanding about an artform seldom examined in a motion picture medium. That is a great plus in itself.

 

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

BOOKER AND BATMAN

Mental floss coverWill Brooker did a Ph.D. on Batman, and in the bi-monthly magazine Mental Floss for September/October, he’s interviewed by Jeff Rubin, who asks “which Batman” Brooker wrote about. To which Brooker said:

“I regard Batman as a concept. He’s like a mosaic. Batman is everything that Batman has ever been. You might not like the 1960s Batman or the 1939 Batman or even the Joel Schumacher Batman, but without that, the character would not be the kind of rich, multifaceted, complex thing that he is. If Batman had carried on the same as he was in 1939, I don’t think he would have continued — he’d be kind of a flat, pulpy, plastic character. To me, Batman is interesting because he’s so many contradictory things — he’s very, very complex.”

Rubin asked what makes Batman more interesting than Superman.

“Batman is more interesting because he is not a god, but he walks with gods. Batman is a mortal — a normal guy who’s trained himself up since his parents were killed to the absolute pinnacle of physical strength and agility and intellectual power. So he’s a good model for someone doing a Ph.D. I think he’s an amazing figure of what humanity can do. Superman is basically the big blue Boy Scout, and he’s been pretty much that since the 1940s. He’s just, to me, pretty bland. He’s too powerful. He’s too good.”

Worth a look in this connection, is Bob Hall’s 1999 opus, Batman: I, Joker, a stunningly ingenious Elseworlds Batman story told by the Cowled Crusader's arch enemy. But the plot is laid far in the future by which time Batman is a god-king called "The Bruce." Incorporating elements of the Fisher King myth, Hall constructed an artful parable that parallels the relationship between the comic book hero, Batman, and his faithful readers, before whom Batman (like the Bruce) re-enacts periodically the ritual conquest of a roster of arch villains in successive issues of his comic books.

Having set up the resonances of this situation, Hall then proceeded to explore its implications. I did a review of this book ‘’way back at the beginning of Rants & Raves, in Opus Two, at the Usual Place; and there, you’ll find “Batman comic books as religious ritual” described in more detail.

Hall, who also wrote and drew the series Armed and Dangerous, hasn’t done much since, and that is the medium’s profound loss.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

THE EVER-ABSENT WATTERSON

From Alan Gardner’s DailyCartoonist.com: TrackingBoard.com is reporting that Warner Bros has picked up a biopic script by Dan Dollar about Bill Watterson. Called “A Boy and His Tiger,” it chronicles Watterson’s early efforts to become a cartoonist, dealing with the popularity of the strip, and then his struggles with the syndicate to keep Calvin and Hobbes exclusively in the strip rather than to branch out to merchandising, which Watterson has always said would destroy the “life” of the characters who, for him, lived only in the strip. Gardner notes that studios option scripts all the time and nothing comes of the options. Although Watterson has given an interview recently (posted in its entirety in the Usual Place, RCHarvey.com, Rants & Raves, Opus 317), I doubt that he would be any kind of participant in the proposed movie.

Watterson was distinguished by his absence in the feature-length documentary, “Dear Mr. Watterson,” (trailer below) which examines the appeal and impact of Watterson’s strip. In the film, comic strip cartoonists speak to how they were personally influenced by Calvin and Hobbes. Says Sam Price-Waldman at theatlantic.com: “The film is a fascinating exploration into the artistic and philosophical harmony of the strip, narrated by filmmaker Joel Allen Schroeder.”

But without Watterson, how how good can it be?

The aforementioned interview was snagged by Mental Floss, the magazine of lasting trivia (“where knowledge junkies get their fix,” as it says on the cover). An article based upon the interview appears in the magazine’s December issue. While informative, the article doesn’t quote the entire interview, but the e-mail exchange between writer Jake Rossen and Watterson was published online by the magazine. (And at the Usual Place, as noted above.)

The magazine article includes some pictures and fascinating statistics ($737,000 was the amount Watterson’s syndicate was awarded in a judgment against a bootleg T-shirt manufacturer). To get the magazine; you can subscribe at http: // secure.palmcoastd.com/pcd/eSv, and if don’t like the magazine, you can cancel without paying. In effect, you get a free issue.

Poynter.org reports that Mental Floss Editor-in-Chief Mangesh Hattikudur says he has “no idea” why Watterson, a Pynchon-esque recluse, chose to give an interview to Jake Rossen. Rossen somehow got Watterson’s email address, Hattikudur tells Poynter in an email. “We have a few theories: it might be because we have ties to Ohio, and a town near where he grew up (we used to operate our little shop out of Chagrin Falls; his signed comics often show up in a book store around there). Or it might be because of how Jake approached him—in a very journalistic [rather than] a fawning fan way. We weren’t totally sure it was him — even though we put two fact-checkers on the case — until his syndicate had to go to him for approval to use Calvin and Hobbes as the main art on our cover. (He’s very protective about licensing). He gave us permission immediately.”

The magazine has “put other writers on the case before,” but none had Rossen’s luck, Hattikudur wrote. “It really stunned us when he pulled the interview.”

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

ARCHIE IN THE MOVIES?

Archie MovieArchie, who, at 72, may now be America's oldest teenager, is headed to the big screen for the first time, at least if a new project at Warner Brothers proceeds as planned. Brooks Barnes at the New York Times reported in early June that Warner closed a deal for a live-action adaptation of the small-town adventures of Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead.

Fitnoot: July is Open Access Month at RCHarvey.com. The online magazine version of this blog, Rants & Raves, as well as archived R&R and the entire Hindsight archive—thirteen years of history, lore, reviews and commentary — is open to non-$ubscribers all month in the hope that they will be so thrilled with what they find that they’ll $ubscribe. Join the happy throng
For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

MAN OF STEEL

Man of SteelMan of Steel has almost no redeeming features as a movie. It may, in fact, be the worst action movie I’ve ever seen. The fight sequences were supersonic car crashes with the opponents rushing headlong at each other and knocking one another down repeatedly. And they moved too fast for a viewer to follow the presumed action; all we see is visual representations of a high wind. After a dozen or so of these head-on collisions, ennui sets in pretty numbingly.

Some relief from the noise of the crashes is afforded in several nearly endless expanses of exposition. For an action movie, there were far too many extreme close-ups; we don’t need to count the hairs of Superman’s eyebrows. Apart from the wholesale destruction being wreaked on the cityscape during fights, we were also treated to unremitting sequences of slow moving — but menacing — space craft that looked like metallic crabs or sea turtles or hovering jelly fish, sequences punctuated by belching firey explosions of the highest decibels.

British actor Henry Cavill is adequately stalwart and muscled heavily enough for the Superman role. The Superman’s chain-maily sort of costume is the best thing in the movie, but the cape is too long. Alas, Amy Adams is wrong for the part of Lois Lane: instead of a hard-charging reporter, we have a prom queen. 

Lois and Clark fall in love and, at the end of the movie, they kiss. This development severely alters the Superman mythology, in particular the love triangle that has animated the comic books for 75 years — Lois loves Superman but disdains Clark Kent, not realizing that the two are one and the same. I can’t imagine how DC consented to the violence this development does to the enduring psychic appeal of the character: every pimply-faced adolescent under the spell of the Siegel-Shuster creation can imagine that he, like nerdy Clark Kent, is secretly a champion. This movie blasts that fond daydream to tiny pieces of Kryptonite, thanks to writers Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer, ably assisted by director Scott Snyder.

The best scenes in the movie belong to Clark and his mother, feelingly played by Diane Lane. They seem unabashedly fond of each other, and their obvious affection lends their scenes emotional impact — about the only human drama around. All of the rest of the intended drama is drowned in cliched dialogue.

But the movie’s most serious flaw is its relentless seriousness. The idea of a flying, invulnerable super-powered hero is laughable on its face, but most successful superhero movies of late have the saving grace of a self-deprecating sense of humor. None of that here. In fact there are only two funny lines in the two-and-a-half hour flick, and they’re both Lois’. She arrives at some frozen outpost of scientific inquiry to report on it, and endures a typically masculine us-guys-know-it-all-but-you-poor-deluded-female briefing, which she finally terminates with a quip: “Now that we’ve finished measuring dicks, maybe we can begin.”

And the penultimate line in the movie is hers, and it is also humorous with double entendre. At the end of the movie, Clark decides to find a job, and he dons specs and reports to work at the Daily Planet, where Lois is the star reporter. When he is introduced to her, she pretends she doesn’t know him — despite having been gaga over him for the whole movie — stands up and shakes his hand and says: “Welcome to the Planet,” a nice play on words.

The movie also supports what appears to be a stunning irrationality. If Clark is invulnerable because he comes from a planet with a different atmosphere than Earth’s, then all those Kryptonites who come looking for him with kidnaping on their agenda are similarly invulnerable. How, then, are they all killed?

But they are. Some unspecified how. And Krypton’s General Zod laments their death and vows to kill all of Clark’s earthling cohorts in revenge. Clark finally dispatches the evil warlord by choking him to death, the only way he can be killed if he’s otherwise invulnerable. That seems to work. But how were all the other Kryptonites killed?

Oh, and — according to Asawin Suebsaeng at motherjones.com — “one of the most fascinating things about this movie is how blatantly littered with product placement it is — roughly $160 million in product placement and promotions went into its makers' coffers. Man of Steel has over 100 global marketing partners, surpassing Universal's 2012 animated flick The Lorax, which reportedly had 70 partners. So if you have forgotten recently to eat at IHOP or to shop at Sears, this film will remind you to do so in big letters.”

But the most troubling aspect of this production for me is the flying. Advertisements for the first Superman movie of modern times touted the flying: it was so convincingly faked that we would know, the ads insisted, that Superman can fly.

This Superman takes flight like a bullet being fired. No flapping of arms, no quick crouch and then a jump up into the air. Nothing. Just — bang! out of the chute. What propels him? The only thing I can think of is, well, super flatulence. Superman farts himself into flight.

And that seems a suitable end for this review. (Unintended word play—but relished nonetheless.)

Fitnoot: If you find this sort of news and opinion refreshing in an age in which Congress’ approval rating hovers statistically around the margin of error, you’ll rejoice to know that July is Open Access Month at RCHarvey.com where there’s lots more of what’s hinted at here. The online magazine version of this blog, Rants & Raves, as well as archived R&R and the entire Hindsight archive — thirteen years of history, lore, reviews and commentary—is open to non-$ubscribers all month in the hope that they will be so thrilled with what they find that they’ll $ubscribe. Join the happy throng.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

CHICKEN WITH PLUMS

Chicken With Plums posterIran-born graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi has a new movie out. It, like her previous film, is based upon one of her graphic novels — in this case, Chicken with Plums; unlike the previous film, this one is live action, not animated cartoons. In its August 31 issue, Entertainment Weekly reviewed “Plums,” giving it a B+ but including it as Number 10 on its Top Ten Things We Love This Week, saying: “Eye-popping memories of lost love haunt a brilliant, brooding musician in the melancholic yet dazzling live-action debut.” Interviewed by Scott Simon at npr.com, Satrapi agreed that the film is “an indictment of arranged marriages, as opposed to romantic love,” which leads Satrapi to pronouncements about marriage and love.

Arranged marriages produce the sort of melodrama she has in her book and movie. “The real love story,” she said, “has to finish bad.” Romeo and Juliet? “If she marries him then there is no more love story anymore. They marry and they had a lot of children. Imagine Romeo and Juliet and they have, like, 12 kids. Who would care about their story, you know? Do you think Shakespeare would write something about them?”

Satrapi also believes that a certain amount of suffering is essential to the artistic enterprise. “Sometimes it happens to me that I wake up in the morning, I look at myself in the mirror, and I think that I'm very beautiful. The sun is shining. I'm very, very happy. This day it is impossible that I go to my studio and I draw or I write something. This day I go out, I buy myself a dress, I call my friends, I have some pina colada. I never create. If we are very happy, we would be like cats. We would lick ourselves and then sleep and eat and probably we would be much happier. But we would be cats.”

She is disappointed with politics. “The cynicism that is in the politics, it is not for my soul. It makes me an extremely bitter, cynical person that I hate to see in the mirror, really. And when I make a film like that, I will say to myself, people, they will watch it and they will [think of this country, Iran,] only by beard and veil and nuclear weapon.”

But she has hope for her “Chicken with Plums,” which is available as a DVD through the Iranian black market. Says she: “In this same country, a man dies because of the love of a woman. And if they understand that, I have done my duty. I cannot do more than that. That's it.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

COMIC-BASED FILMS

Beetle Bailey

 

 

Steven Spielberg, accepting a Golden Globe for “The Adventures of Tintin” on January 15, rattled off an impressively long list of persons he thanked but neglected to mention Georges Remi, whose fictional creation he appropriated for the movie. ICv2, in reporting the award (and another to “Hugo,” another comics-based creation), said: “Golden Globes are probably most important as possible indicators of Oscar winners, which can have a significant impact on box office and DVD sales. The fact that two graphic novel-based films won Golden Globes, both from A-list directors, is a sign that Hollywood reception of comic-based films is moving beyond superhero fare to other genres.” So what’s next? Movies based on newspaper comic strips? It’s been done before, and maybe it needs to be done again. Beetle, are you ready for your close-up?

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

THE LORAX

I haven’t see The Lorax yet. And I may not — if  I am to be guided by a local Mile High critic, Jonathan Lack, who, writing in a giveaway weekly tabloid, calls the film a “wretched insult” to Dr. Seuss. The Lorax moviebook, Lack remembers, “is a sad, uncompromisingly bleak story of a world desolated by greed.” In the book, a boy living in this barren waste seeks knowledge to restore the environment and make the world right again. In the movie, the kid is living in luxury in a thoroughly modern city. When he leaves to wander the wasteland beyond the city’s borders, he does so merely to impress the pretty girl next door. “Instead of a serious, down-to-earth fable about the environment, the film is a broad, pandering comedy, filled wall-to-wall with terrible jokes, endless slapstick, pop culture references, horrifyingly awful musical numbers, and long, complicated car chases. Yes, you read that right: ‘The Lorax’ now includes car chases.” The animation is “stupendous,” Lack says -- ”lush, gorgeous, immaculately detailed and beautifully colored. In every other regard, the movie is an utter failure. ... If there was one thing we know Dr. Seuss believed in, it was that children are worthy of the best. Ignoring all its other sins, ‘The Lorax’ film violates that crucial principle, and that alone makes it an abject failure in my book.”

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com
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