A little of this, a little of that. Some pulp fiction, a couple of costumed-hero movies you’ve probably never heard of, and even some comics.
Mockbuster Batman: So this is an odd little thing that I came across while I was doing some research.
If you have been reading this weekly thing of mine for any length of time at all, you know that I’m very fond of the old pulp heroes. As it happened, I had occasion to look up one of those heroes, a B-lister called the Black Bat.
Now, the character of the Black Bat has fallen into the public domain, so there have been several new attempts to revive him. He was a big player in Moonstone’s “Return of the Originals” thing not too long ago, and he’s also co-starring in the new Masks from Dynamite Comics.
Dynamite’s about to give him his own series, in fact.
But what took me completely by surprise is that there’s actually a Black Bat movie. A recent one.
It appears to be one of those straight-to-video “mockbuster” things, like you see from The Asylum– this one is from a different company, though, Tomcat Films, and clearly is designed to be mistaken for The Dark Knight Rises in a dim light.
But what tickles me is that this shameless attempt to lure the Dark Knight audience really kind of is the authentic Black Bat. The original backstory of the Bat is a bit complex and comes off to modern readers as a mashup of Batman and Daredevil: DA Tony Quinn is blinded by acid and believes his career is over until a mysterious woman, Carol Baldwin, arrives. She tells Quinn that her father is a small-town cop who is dying from a gangster’s bullet and he wants to donate his eyes to Tony Quinn so Quinn will continue the fight against injustice. She adds that a surgeon is willing to perform an experimental operation to graft her father’s corneas onto Quinn’s eyes to restore his sight. When the procedure is done, Quinn finds that he can not only see normally but can even see in the dark, because SCIENCE! Also, while blind, Quinn had developed sharper hearing, more sensitive touch, a better sense of smell, and so on, and he retains all those abilities as well.
A lot of this origin is adapted straight across in the movie.
Which is not to say this film is good. It’s not. It’s actually pretty awful and I couldn’t even get through the whole thing… and that’s coming from a guy who’s the proud owner of movies like Metalstorm and Road House 2: Last Call. (Here’s the trailer, for the morbidly curious.)
But what amuses me is that the Black Bat was ahead of all his other costumed contemporaries– his debut was virtually simultaneous with Batman’s back in 1939, and he was way before Daredevil or Dr. Mid-Nite– but once again, he is relegated to the status of cheap knockoff. Poor guy can’t win for losing.
Moonlighting: I do occasionally sneak off and write things for other folks. Here’s something I did for Techcitement about Amazon’s new Kindle Worlds ‘official fan-fiction’ initiative. The short version– it’s a staggeringly bad idea. The longer version is here.
Other Pulp Movies: Also discovered while noodling around trying to look up old pulp stuff– the original Spider serial is up on YouTube.
I mention this because, first of all, this is the version of the Spider costume that’s adapted for the new comics from Dynamite, and also because it’s actually one of the best translations of the pulps to the screen I’ve ever seen. Warren Hull plays Richard Wentworth as perhaps a bit more cheerful than I’d like but overall he does a great job. It’s one of the better serials I’ve seen… and certainly, it kicks the ass of the horrible Black Bat movie mentioned above. Check it out here.
From the Review Pile: Some very cool stuff has been coming in the mail lately. For one thing, the latest from Titan’s Simon and Kirby reprint library arrived a week or two ago, Science Fiction, and I think it’s one of the handsomest volumes yet.
It reprints all of the “Blue Bolt” adventures, the first feature the duo collaborated on. These are mostly noteworthy for their historical interest– the Blue Bolt stories are not either man’s finest hour, but you can see a glimmer of what was to come.
The book also has a bunch of great fifties stuff from Race For The Moon!, a title I hadn’t actually known about before but am now swooningly in love with.
The stories are the standard EC-style 8-pagers with a gimmick or twist ending, but the artwork is breathtaking. I never would have thought of having a guy like Al Williamson ink Jack Kirby but he is just about perfect here. It’s just gorgeous stuff.
The hardcover retails for $49.95, but you can do considerably better than that if you look around online a little bit. I recommend it unreservedly– actually, all the Simon and Kirby Library books from Titan are awesome, but this one is definitely my favorite.
Also, Erik Hendrix from Arcana sent along a PDF of his new project. (Long-time readers may remember me talking about Mr. Hendrix a while back as being the writer of The Evil Tree, one of the few horror comics I’ve read that I found to be genuinely scary, as opposed to just unpleasant.) His new gig isn’t horror, but it is kind of cool. It’s called The Steam Engines of Oz.
The world of comics has been hip-deep in Oz pastiches for a number of years now, God knows, and I’ve even been snippy about it in this space before. But I like Mr. Hendrix’s writing and I think this is a pretty cool book with an interesting premise. It’s billed as a family-friendly steampunk take on the land of Oz, which is accurate enough, I suppose, but it really doesn’t give you the sense of the thing. It’s set a century or so after the events of The Wizard of Oz, and it’s the story of Victoria Wright, a young engineer who’s tasked with keeping the machines running that lie beneath the Emerald City. However, she soon finds there’s much more to it than that.
The art from Yannis Roumboulias is very cool; it suggests the style and design elements that original illustrator John R. Neill brought to the Oz books without slavishly aping them. Overall, this is the kind of engaging young-adult fantasy adventure that I often wish there was more of in comics. It’s ostensibly an Oz pastiche but really what I kept thinking of was how it felt like the same fun female-lead adventure strip as the original Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld was, back in the day. So far, there’s a Free Comic Book Day giveaway prelude book and then three issues that comprise the first arc. I’d recommend checking those out, and if you like the story then you could throw a few bucks towards the Kickstarter they’ve got going for the second one.
And that’s the lot, this time out. Have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend, everyone, and I’ll see you next week.