Rebel Highway Double Feature: Jailbreakers & Runaway Daughters

jailbreakersA few weeks back I was looking around on Netflix Instant and saw the poster for a Shannen Doherty/Antonio Sabato Jr. movie called Jailbreakers from 1994 that looked very 90s Miramax. Even with all that going for it, it wasn’t the kind of movie I immediately wanted to watch until I looked at the director and saw that it was directed by William “The Exorcist” Friedkin! That was such a bonkers combination that I needed to check it out.

While reading the IMDb trivia page for this movie — something I can’t seem to go 10 minutes without doing after starting anything — I discovered that it was actually part of an anthology series on Showtime called Rebel Highway. The basic idea was to take the title of an old American International Pictures teen movie from the 50s and 60s, give it to a director and have them make a more gritty film with a cast of young up-and-comers. Each project had a $1.3 million budget and 12 days to shoot. Sounds like a pretty rad experiment to me!

So how are the results? Well, not so great in the case of Jailbreakers which suffered from two major problems for me. First off, there wasn’t a frame of this movie that looked like it was from the time period of the story. Actually, that’s not quite the case. More accurately, there isn’t a frame of this film that doesn’t scream, “I was made in the mid 90s!!!” It’s just got that dull look of TV movies from the 90s that, no matter how good your costumes or set dressing are, look like the time it was made in instead of the time it’s supposed to be. I can chalk that up to the low budget and pay cable quality of the day.

The second problem is more, well, problematic and it leads in to the part where I talk about the plot. Doherty plays a high school kid named Angel who was a good girl up until she met Antonio Sabato Jr.’s Tony, a bad boy biker. The two start getting into trouble which leads to them getting caught by the cops. Tony goes to jail while Angel moves with her parents to another town where they don’t know anything about her mistakes. Tony eventually gets out and reunites with Angel only to realize he might be more than just a little bad. Sound familiar? Yeah, it was pretty familiar to me too and hit a ton of notes that I’ve seen before. And, aside from a great performance by Adrien Brody, the tried and true elements don’t get much of a boost from this particular group of actors.

runaway daughters

I had a much better time with another Rebel Highway offering, Runaway Daughters. This one features Paul Rudd and Julie Bowen, though they’re not really the stars 0f this film directed by the always awesome Joe Dante. In this case Mary (Holly Fields) winds up getting together with two of her girlfriends Angie (Bowen) and  Laura (Jenny Lewis who was in The Wizard!) and driving to San Diego in order to grab Bob (Chris Young, PCU), Mary’s baby daddy before he can officially enlist in the army. Along the way they find themselves dealing with crooked cops, crazy preppers and a variety of other problems.

While Jailbreakers took an old story and just did it again with more cursing and violence, Runaway Daughters actually used the framework of this kind of story to get into some actual social commentary. Throughout the film, Laura talks about how ridiculous it is that society shuns young women for having sex when it’s a natural thing. We’re mostly told by TV and film that everyone in the 50s was a buttoned-up square, but that’s a myth. There were plenty of people looking at the norms and realizing some of them were silly.

Plus, while this movie looks the same as Jailbreakers, it does boast a more interesting story and a much better cast. Rudd doing his best James Dean or Marlon Brando impression is a lot of fun. Then you’ve got Bowen playing the instigator perfectly, Dick Miller as a grizzled but also somewhat socially conscious private detective and even appearances by Roger Corman and Joe Flaherty. And those are just the people I recognized. This might be the least Joe Dante movie I’ve ever seen, but it was still an enjoyable outing that adds a nice layer to his filmography. 

Batman Beyond Trade Post: Superman Man Of Tomorrow & 10,000 Clowns

Superman Beyond Man of Tomorrow Superman Beyond: Man of Tomorrow (DC)
Written by Paul Levitz, Ron Frenz, Tom Defalco & J.T. Krull, drawn by Howard Porter, John Livesay, Renato Guedes, Jose Wilson, Tom Defalco, Ron Frenz & Sal Buscema
Collects Superman/Batman Annual #4, Superman Beyond #0 & Superman Beyond Digital Chapters #1-10

After enjoying Adam Beechen’s first two volumes of Batman Beyond, I got right on my library’s website and placed the other available volumes on hold. They don’t have Justice League Beyond and I’m still waiting on the last BB volume, but quickly moved on to Superman Beyond: Man Of Tomorrow and Batman Beyond: 10,000 Clowns. These stories were originally presented in a digital-first format and then put out in hard copy for the most part.

Of all the Beyond comics I’ve read, the ones in Superman Beyond feel the most disjoined, but I think that’s because it’s got three different writers involved. The Superman/Batman Annual by Levitz and Guedes was an interesting story about Superman finally defeated Lex Luthor, but it ends with him leaving Earth to explore the cosmos. This got picked up in Superman Beyond #0 by Frenz, Defalco and Buscema which finds Superman returning to Earth and discovering his place in a world that’s evolved to a new place. And then in the J.T. Krull stuff, you find Superman wondering if he should stay on Earth or not without mentioning the fact that he spent a year off planet. In the end, it feels like the first two issues are one thing and the other pieces are connected, but not all the way.

The thrust of the main adventure finds Superman dealing with Lex Luthor’s daughter, Lucy, whose true identity was revealed to her by a projection of her father. Lucy uses a combination of her own smarts and her dad’s plan to get pretty darn close to killing Superman. Luckily, Metropolis has armored cops now and Batman swings by to help out, so the day winds up getting saved and a new status quo is set up for Superman including a new secret identity as a fireman.

At the end of the day, this book didn’t really do it for me. I was never convinced of Lucy’s turn from disillusioned youth to A level maniacal supervillain in like one day. I get that she was bummed for feeling like an outsider, but to go from that to piloting massive robots around Metropolis and surrounding the planet with Kryptonite meteorites is another thing.

There were cool moments though. Luthor’s plans were pretty spectacular and I really enjoyed the moment when Bruce Wayne popped over from Gotham in his Dark Knight Returns armor to help Superman fight Solomon Grundy. But, at the end of the day, this is another sad Superman story and that’s not the kind of Superman story I want to read. For me, the heart of Superman is that he’s got hope in his heart even when things are going terribly. There is some of that at the end, but you spend all this time hanging out with a sad sack that it’s not very fun. You could argue that they went this route as a way to flip the Superman/Batman dynamic in the future because Terry McGinnis is a young guy who seems to enjoy what he does, but it just doesn’t work for me. I’m also not a fan of seeing Supes in that black and white costume, but that’s not to say that the artists in this book didn’t do a rad job of bringing it to life.

batman beyond 10000 clowns Batman Beyond: 10,000 Clowns (DC)
Written by Adam Beechen, drawn by Norm Breyfogle
Collects Batman Beyond Unlimited #1-13

Thankfully, I had a much better experience with Beechen’s next Batman Beyond offering 10,000 Clowns. This one felt like a nice synthesis of the previous two volumes in that it had the overarching storyline as seen in Hush Beyond, but also handled a lot of evolving story elements like Dana’s brother Doug, her relationship with Terry, the appearance and origin of a new Vigilante and the reappearance of Dick Grayson, Tim Drake and the new Catwoman in service of the greater good. Oh, and Bruce Wayne almost died.

In a move that feels like a great mix of The Warriors and a smaller version of the “Grand Guignol” story from James Robinson’s Starman, Gotham City is under siege by an army of Jokerz from all over the world. As it turns out, a fairly new character to the series has crowned himself The Joker King and has a new take on the Joker’s chaos theory: none of it matters, so let’s cause as much destruction as possible. To that end, he drugs all the thugs and sends them out into the city with explosives, a plan that decimates huge chunks of the city, even though Batman, Catwoman, the new Vigilante and Dick Grayson are out in the field trying to save the day. Even Bruce gets in on the action trying to protect people in the hospital while he’s seemingly dying from cancer.

I didn’t know much about this series going in, so I was surprised to see Norm Breyfogle’s name on the cover. He was a Batman artist in the 80s and 90s when I first started reading comics and actually gave me my very first comic sketch when he visited my hometown shop 20 years ago. I was surprised when I opened this book and saw him doing a very different style that was much more reminiscent of the Bruce Timm look of the original cartoon. Ryan Benjamin did more of a stylistic take in the previous two books, but this felt a lot more similar to the existing cartoon material, which was probably a conscious effort to make these digital comics as easy to digest for new, non-traditional comic book readers as possible. While I enjoy the look of Breyfogle’s usual pencils, I found myself really digging these books as well. It’s not easy looking classic and futuristic at the same time, but that’s what the cartoon did and that’s what Breyfogle did as well.

So far, I’m giving Beechen’s run on Batman Beyond a big ol’ thumb’s up, but I must admit that I’m a little worried about how it’s all going to end. I know Batman Beyond is a big deal in DC’s current weekly series/event called Future’s End and that there’s a Batman Beyond 2.0 book right now, but it’s by a different writer and also takes place in an alternate universe. Basically, I’m worried that Beechen’s run will just end and then this other things jumps in to take its place. It always bums me out when one creator does all this hard work bringing a character to a cool new place and then, after said character gets popular, someone else is brought in and changes things around to go in a different direction. I’m not saying I won’t like or try the new version of Batman Beyond, but I don’t want its existence to negate this other book that I’ve enjoyed so much. I also want to see what happens to Gotham in the wake of this insane attack by the Jokerz, so I hope to get a little bit of that, plus a well deserved ending in the last collection called Batman Beyond: Batgirl Beyond.

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Hot Wheels Color Changers

As I wrote over on PopPoppa, we got our daughter a basic orange Hot Wheels track for her birthday. You know, the kind with a clamp and a ramp? When my folks came out recently, they brought the box of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars I had as a kid out with them. After I saw that she was actually interested in playing with it, I broke out the other cars and she’s been enjoying it ever since.

While going through the box of cars I was reminded of that great, late 80s/early 90s trend of making everything change colors. It spread to Hot Wheels and their aptly named Color Changers line which you can see in the commercial above. I was a huge fan of these and showed them off to the kiddo which kind of blew her mind. Unfortunately, only a few of them still change. It kinda makes me want to dig through some boxes and see if my Hypercolor sweatshirt is still around. (I can’t find a picture of it on the internets, but it had a guy wearing a sport coat and hat that would change into shorts and a tank top.)

80s Odyssey: Cloak & Dagger (1984)

cloak_and_dagger Over the years, I’ve come to realize just how much I love movies about kids dealing with insane situations. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise considering how much I loved Goonies and E.T. as a kid. I guess the real surprise is how much I still connect to those kinds of movies, even ones that I’ve come to more as an adult like Troll, The Gate, Explorers and Monster Squad. There’s just something so cool about taking pre-teens, putting them in these wild scenarios and seeing what they can do given their not-yet-adult ways of viewing the world.

I recently discovered a movie that perfectly fits this mold on Netflix Instant called Cloak & Dagger starring E.T.‘s Henry Thomas and Dabney Coleman. Thomas plays a geeky kid named Davey who has constructed an imaginary friend based on a secret agent from a table top-turned-video game who looks exactly like his dad (both played by Coleman) in the wake of his mom’s death. In his free time, he hangs out at the local video game store with his friend Kim or creates elaborate spy missions for them to act out in their hometown of San Antonio, Texas. While playing spy, Davey winds up with a copy of a video game called Cloak & Dagger that contains hidden government secrets. Of course, no adults believe him, so he has to go on the run as a series of incredibly serious people try any means necessary, including murder, to get it back. Davey’s imaginary friends appears throughout the film to help him avoid death and figure out his next move until, eventually, he realizes he doesn’t need him anymore.

I’ve got to say, I was surprised by how much intensity went into this Richard Franklin (Psycho II, F/X 2) kids movie. Not only is Davey continually hunted by predatory adults in this movie, but his video game store employee friend gets murdered, he realizes he doesn’t need his imaginary friend anymore and he straight up kills a guy. There’s no way this kid’s going to be okay with all this in the future. And it’s not handled in a wacky, cartoony way, so you get to see Thomas really going through some of this stuff on screen, or actively avoiding it so he can keep moving and live to see another day. I must also admit that it easily played on one of my biggest fears: people not believing you when something terrible’s happening because it sounds crazy. Since he’s just a kid who routintely talked about his made-up exploits, everyone thinks he’s full of it when he tries to tell them this crazy story about video games and spies and whatnot.

I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but you really don’t see movies like this made anymore. These days, when kids encounter craziness, if at all, they’re usually in high school or beyond and a lot of the innocence is taken out of the picture. But, there have been a few films like the Spy Kids movies, Super 8 and even the upcoming Earth To Echo which all seem to take some of their inspiration from the movies of my youth.

If you’re interested in checking out Cloak & Dagger — which I highly recommend — look for it on Netflix Instant. If you’re looking to add it to your DVD collection (far as I can tell, it’s not on Blu-ray), there’s the basic version, a double feature with The Wizard which is another favorite from that era and as part of a 10 movie pack that also includes The Wizard, King Ralph, Matinee and a few others. I’m thinking about grabbing that last one because, of all the options, it’s currently the cheapest at $5 and I love a good deal!

Batman Beyond Trade Post: Hush Beyond & Industrial Revolution

batman beyond hush beyond Batman Beyond: Hush Beyond (DC)
Written by Adam Beechen, drawn by Ryan Benjamin
Collects Batman Beyond #1-6

As I mentioned in yesterday’s Toy Commercial Tuesday, I liked the idea and execution of Batman Beyond, but wound up not watching too much of it at the time. Still, when I heard that Adam Beechen was going to write a comic set in that universe — which also happens to be the same universe as seen in Justice League, JLU, Static Shock, Batman: The Animated Series AND Superman: The Animated Series — I was stoked. Not only did Beechen write a bunch of the comic book tie-ins for the DC Animated U back in the day, but he also penned one of the strongest Robin runs in my opinion.

The story kicks off with Terry McGinnis still rocking the futuristic Batman suit with in-ear help from his mentor Bruce Wayne. As the story progresses, a mysterious character escapes from one of Amanda Waller’s secret labs and wants to take out Batman’s Rogues Gallery past and present because he thinks that there will be no need for the hero if all the villains are gone. Everyone assumes it’s Tommy Elliot, also known as Hush, committing these crimes, but finding out if that’s true or not is all part of the fun. I won’t get into the whos and whys, but I thought this was a pretty clever way of showing off the BBU and also expanding on existing themes at the same time.

Another big part of the fun of Batman Beyond is seeing how so many familiar characters ended up and this story, by its very nature, has plenty of them. When you’re dealing with the regular DCU or any shared universe, there’s a lot of different avenues the characters might go down, but with something like this, you actually get to follow them and see what happens in a more definitive reality. Sure, it’s just one potential future and I might not agree with how everyone wound up, but it’s nice to see what Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon and the others are up to and how being involved with Batman changed them.

batman beyond industrial revolution Batman Beyond: Industrial Revolution (DC)
Written by Adam Beechen, drawn by Ryan Benjamin with Eduardo Pansica & Chris Batista
Collects Batman Beyond #1-8

While Hush Beyond was a very focused whodunit, Industrial Revolution collects stories that feel a lot more like old school comics where there’s a main ongoing story while also working with a few potboilers and even a pair of one-off character spotlight issues. These are the kinds of comics I love and Beechen does a great job moving from piece to piece.

This one book features a new villain accidentally endangering Terry’s family to the point where he agrees to let the Justice League help him, someone trying to out Dick Grayson as an associate of Batman’s, Max getting courted by a super hacker group known as Undercloud, a strike at Wayne Powers, troubles between Dana and Terry, the return of Dana’s never-mentioned brother Doug and the return of one of Terry’s most dangerous villains. It’s a lot, but it all felt very balanced.

Above I mentioned how I like finding out what happened to certain characters, but I also like seeing what bits and pieces of the existing Batman mythos Beechen and company decided to cherrypick from. Dick Grayson explains that he worked for Batman Inc., which obviously didn’t exist when the cartoon first debuted, but has been worked in since. There’s also an appearance by Batman’s crazy motorcycle from The Dark Knight which was fun.

For the most part, these issues do a great job of walking that tightrope of servicing longtime fans and being accessible to newer ones (or ones with not-so-great memories like myself). Personally, I was a bit confused when the Justice League showed up, but that’s just because I didn’t know a few continuity things like whether that’s the Barda I know or someone else. The only other time that happened was in the last issue of the second collection which is an Inque solo story. Now, that’s a solid, sad story about what drives a person to become a villain, but the problem is that the character hadn’t shown up in the series before that. After that issue the book switched production and became a digital-first book, so it also comes off as a bit of an odd way of stopping a collection, but I guess that’s just the way things work out sometime.

At the end of the day, I had a really great time with both of these books. When you’re dealing with a tie-in comic like this, I think the creators are doing a great job when you’re psyched to read the next issue or trade, but also equally excited about getting back to the source material. That’s how it was with me and Batman Beyond. I’ve got the other two Beechen books requested from the library as well as Superman Beyond (they don’t happen to have the Justice League book in the system) and also started re-watching the series on Netflix, which has been a ton of fun.

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Batman Beyond

Tomorrow’s Trade Post will be all about Batman Beyond, so this is a little synergy action. I would have been about 16 when Batman Beyond debuted back in 1999. By that point I was in high school and would be getting by first job in the summer, so I’m not sure how many Saturday morning cartoons I was still watching. I do remember taping a bunch of episodes — I was big on that back then, especially with Buffy — but don’t know if I got very far into the series.

After reading the first two recent Batman Beyond trades, I’ve been more inclined to revisit this property which resulted in a bump to top of the ol’ Netflix Instant queue for the animated series and a stroll through YouTube to look for TCT fodder.

And, look, I found a pretty great one! As you can probably guess, I was out of the loop for the most part when these action figures started appearing. In fact, I don’t actually have any memory of them warming pegs at this time. I probably wasn’t buying many action figures in those days, but I think would stroll through the toy aisle of Target when we’d go.

Anyway, I’ve heard and read that the main reason WB wanted to create this show was to sell toys to younger kids by creating a younger Batman. It only makes sense, then, that they’s push this toy line with a line like “He’s cool. He’s you.” Well played, toy company, well played.

80s Odyssey: 48 Hours (1982)

48-hrs-movie-poster-1982-1020192886 Eddie Murphy was one of the Saturday Night Live stars whose films my dad introduced to me when I was a kid. I can’t tell you how many times we watched Trading Places or the Beverly Hills Cop movies when they’d come on TV. But, 48 Hours is something of a blind spot for me. I know I’ve seen the movie (or at least parts of it) a few times, but it hasn’t taken up much real estate in my head.

I knew the basics, of course, cop (Nick Nolte) springs con (Eddie Murphy) from jail to help him with an investigation, but somehow it escaped my knowledge that the movie was directed by The Warriors helmer Walter Hill and even stars a few of that movie’s leads, James Remar as killer Albert Ganz and David Patrick Kelly as a street hood coincidentally named Luther.

To get into a bit more detail, Murphy’s character used to run with Remar’s gang. Another criminal helped spring Ganz from prison and the two went on a crime spree that happened to garner attention from the cops. In the process of escaping, two of the cops get killed and Nolte wants revenge. He teams up with Murphy to try and figure out what’s going on and where they can find Remar.

48 Hours is notable because it gave Murphy his first big screen role and success. From there he’d go on to become one of the biggest comedy stars of the 80s. In the film he nails the role of angry convict with a cool head and a smart mouth. I’m a big fan of the scene where he goes in to the country bar acting like a cop and gets to get a lot of his anger out. It’s cathartic.

This movie is also an interesting milestone in movies of this kind. Apparently Hill thought that Murphy’s character here was taken, slightly changed and then used again in the Beverly Hills Cop series. I think there’s an argument that could be made to that point, but how much of that was in the script and how much was just Murphy’s performance is probably impossible to tell at this point. Some of my favorite movies from this era have a similar vibe to this one, mixing some legitimate action or drama elements with some truly great comedic acting (I’m thinking of you Fletch and Fletch Lives). There’s also an interesting transition in scores that you can hear in this film. Anyone who knows BHC, remembers the electronic theme song written by Harold Faltermeyer. 48 Hours has a pretty solid soundtrack of more traditional music, but there is a little bit of the electronic, new wave influence in there that would soon take over.

Now that I think about it, the movie also represents a passing of the torch between two versions of this kind of movie. Nolte’s character is a lot more in line with the vigilante cop films of the 70s like Dirty Harry and Death Wish, while, as I already mentioned, Murphy is the smart-talking, wise cracking cop who can take care of himself. This also allowed for the bigger action guys like Stallone and Schwarzenegger to come in and fill some of those gaps with their far more over-the-top films.

I’m still not sure why 48 Hours wasn’t in heavy rotation either in my house or later on during my heavy rental period during high school, but I’m glad I came around to it so many years later. Experiencing a movie that combines one of my favorite stars from this era with a director I really adore is a nice treat. My only complaint about the movie is that Annette O’Toole is awesome and just doesn’t get enough to do in the film.

Green Arrow Triple Feature: Year One, The Wonder Year & Longbow Hunters

Green Arrow Year One Green Arrow: Year One (DC)
Written by Andy Diggle, drawn by Jock
Collects Green Arrow: Year One 1-6

Earlier this month, after watching that week’s episode of Arrow, I finally got off my butt and decided to give Andy Diggle and Jock’s Green Arrow: Year One trade a re-read. The fact that tonight marks the second season finale made today the perfect day to write about three different Green Arrow comics I read and enjoyed lately.

I got on the GA train back when Kevin Smith restarted the book in 2001. I was onboard throughout Brad Meltzer’s run and Judd Winick’s, but after the latter left, I thought it lost most of what made the book special. I even gave the first volume of the New 52 incarnation a read, but was pretty disappointed.

In 2007, DC tried to make Year One a thing by doing minis starring Green Arrow, Metamorpho, the Teen Titans and Black Lightning. For the most part, they weren’t particularly interesting, but Green Arrow had the one that not only sticks out as being pretty rad, but also works as a bit of source material for The CW show. The series really gets into what turned Oliver Queen from careless billionaire playboy into avenging arrow-slinger.

In Diggle’s re-telling of the origin, Queen essentially forces his way onto the boat that inadvertently puts him on the island. This time, though, it’s betrayal that directly leads to his life changing ordeal. A bow and arrow enthusiast thanks to knowing Howard Hill the stuntman who did the trick shots in Errol Flynn’s The Adventures Of Robin Hood (an element found in all three of these books), Ollie creates a make shift arsenal that he uses to hunt and keep himself alive long enough to discover that the island he’s on is also the major source of poppies for heroin dealers lead by China White.

The great thing about this mini is that it not only shows how Ollie  grew into the physical character who could run around a city shooting arrows at bad guys, but also the mental transformation he had to go through because the former doesn’t necessarily correlate with the latter. Ollie sees that human kindness can exist even in a hellhole where natives are enslaved and tortured which goes a long way to turn him from a self obsessed rich kid into an empathetic hero whose eyes are now open to the horrors of the world he previously didn’t see or ignored. Jock’s able to convey all of this as well as the more action packed scenes with his very specific style in a setting that allows him to draw scenes in broad daylight which really show off his skills.

Green_Arrow_the_Wonder_Year_Vol_1_1 Green Arrow: The Wonder Year (DC)
Written by Mike Grell, drawn by Gray Morrow
Green Arrow: The Wonder Year #1-4

After reading Year One, I started going through some of the longboxes I’ve got sitting in our closet in an effort to make space, read some books that have been sitting around for a long time and generally clean up. While doing that, I came across the huge number of pre-Kevin Smith Green Arrow comics I started collecting back in college. At that point, I started just buying up back issue lots on ebay so I’ve got a lot of random stuff including this Mike Grell-written, Gray Morrow-drawn miniseries called The Wonder Year. In fact it was Morrow’s name that made me want to read this right away because I just discovered his amazing art in the pages of the first Creepy collection and was blown away.

Chronologically speaking, this 1993 mini takes place right after Ollie got back from the island. It’s funny, in this version, Grell made the island a place for pot farmers, a note that Diggle obviously took, morphed and ran with in Year One. Anyway, we get to see Ollie stopping bad guys while wearing a Robin Hood costume, hating the name Green Arrow as bestowed upon him by the press and scoring that first, real GA costume.

But the real thrust of the story here is a more personal one for Ollie as he comes to discover that an old college girlfriend of his has popped back into his life with some mysterious political affiliations that turn out to be a lot more nefarious than expected. In these issues, Grell paints young Ollie as a more politically oriented and complicated character than he was in something like Year One, going so far as to get into level-headed economic discussions with his hippy pals.

When I first read these issues, I wasn’t super impressed, but after thinking about them for a while, I actually like the book a lot more. For one thing, it’s great reading a Green Arrow book without many of the aspects that became common place later on like his extended hero family (Connor, Roy, Mia, etc.) or even Black Canary. Also, for longtime Green Arrow and Ollie fans, it’s interesting to see this older romantic relationship for our hero, especially how it ended the first time and more dramatically at the very end. It’s not necessarily the kind of book that will be referenced much, but it does reveal one of the many bricks in Ollie’s wall that got put up between himself and womankind for so long.

As far as Morrow’s art goes, it’s very hit or miss in these issues. You do get to see some of that amazing shading, page composition and collage skills on display in the pages of Creepy. But, other times, the figures look very weak or half-baked and occasionally, it’s not easy to figure out what’s going on. Still, I give all that a pass because we’re talking about 30 years between Creepy and Green Arrow: The Wonder Year.

Green Arrow: The Longbow HuntersGreen Arrow: The Longbow Hunters (DC)
Written & drawn by Mike Grell
Collects Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters #1-3

Before Mike Grell launched what is still the longest running Green Arrow book of all time, he laid down the basics of his take in a three issue prestige format miniseries called The Longbow Hunters. This 1987 story took a character previously associated with big time superheroes in the Justice League and put him squarely in the real world city of Seattle, a corner of the DCU that ignored the big guns like Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern in favor of focusing on more street level, human dramas. Ollie wasn’t alone in this descent into more seemingly mundane madness, though, he did have Dinah “Black Canary” Lance along for the ride as the two moved in together above Sherwood Florist, the best possible name for a flower shop in the history of clever flower shop names.

But, this isn’t the story of two people settling down to a simple life of vigilantism. Instead, Ollie tries to track down someone who’s using his archery MO to kill people while Dinah investigates a drug ring. The two wind up connected and Oliver must team up with the murderer known as Shado to save Dinah and also bring the bad guys to justice while dealing with some incredibly tough moral questions about the superhero code.

I feel like I should note that, up until this time, Green Arrow not only never had his own ongoing, but wasn’t much of a character. Denny O’Neil laid a lot of the Ollie groundwork in “Hard Traveling Heroes,” comics I’ve never been able to get through because not only are they well-mined by those who came after, but also pretty heavy handed. Grell took those ideas and ran with them, adding plenty of new layers as he went. If you want to get an idea of those early days, check out Showcase Presents: Green Arrow, Vol. 1 or The Jack Kirby Omnibus Vol. 1: Starring Green Arrow to see what I mean.

Anyway, I’m a big fan of this story which, along with enjoying the then-current run on the book, lead me to start collecting the issues from this volume which eventually lead to Ollie’s death and his son Connor taking over. You hear a lot about the 80s being too dark, grim and gritty in the wake of Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns, but I think there were a lot of quality comics being put out at that time that might have dealt with more real world issues and been darker in tone, but didn’t wallow in it. In this case, Green Arrow still shines as the hero even as terrible things are going on around him.

I absolutely love Grell’s art in this book. It’s beautiful, like paintings composed in pencil, sometimes on paper that looks rough, almost like brown grocery bags. He really took advantage of not only the nicer paper quality of these prestige format books, but also the freedom to break away from the traditional grid system to do something unique. My only complaint about the composition is that, occasionally, they can be difficult to read when he goes into double page layouts where you’re supposed to read the panels straight across the spread. After reading comics for a while, I’ve realized the best way to do this is to make sure that a panel from the right hand page starts on the left hand page, so the eye naturally carries over. In many cases in this book, the second page of the spread starts in the gutter or on the second page, so your eyes go down instead of over which can be problematic. Because of all that, I don’t know if I’d recommend this book to a new comic reader or someone who wants to check out some GA comics because they like Arrow. I mean, I’ve been reading comics for 22 years and I was confused.

Even so, it’s not a terrible thing to work a little to properly enjoy a great story like this one. If you’re at all interested in the history of Green Arrow as a character this is a pretty important piece to absorb at some point, but maybe give the collection Grell’s first six issues on the book (aka Green Arrow Vol. 1: Hunters Moon that came out in 1988 to see if it’s something you’d dig. For me, it’s all thumbs up and aces. Now I want to finish up my GA collection, but also want to get my hands on the trades I’m missing from the next volume.

PS – I’m trying something a little new lately by throwing in links to Amazon pages for the books and movies I review. If you’re interested in getting your own copies of these trades, just click on the main title next to the image and that’ll take you to Amazon. If you do buy it, I get a little cut and it doesn’t cost you anything extra.

Not-So-Quick Movie Review: 54 (1998)

54 movie poster They say that pop culture has a tendency to roll back over on itself every 20 years or so. What’s old becomes new again not only because the people who were kids 20 years prior have now grown up, earned money and got nostalgic, but also because those same people have worked their way into the various creative worlds. It’s the reason why I’m seeing so many shows with references to movies I loved as a kid as well as reboots of the same, but also the reason we saw such a big uptick in 70s-based projects in the late 90s, specifically ones centered on disco and the world that grew up and died around it.

I would have been 15 when 54 came out, so I don’t have any personal connection to the heyday of disco in the late 70s. Hell, it was dead and buried by the time I was born in 1983. And yet, I have a strange second hand nostalgia for that era because of the disco era’s resurrection and examination in the late 90s. I became a huge fan of That 70s Show, which is one of the all-time best coming of age sitcoms around in my book. But there were also films like 54, The Last Days Of Disco and even The Summer of Sam that all came out around 1998 and 1999. At that same time there were a ton of TV specials about what really went on behind the velvet ropes of Studio 54, a legendary nightclub in Manhattan run by a guy named Steve Rubell who was an incredibly shrewd club owner, but not very good at hiding his less-than-honest business practices. Studio 54 was the place to do just about anything and everything, assuming you could get in.

That’s the backdrop for the 1998 film by Mark Christopher that focuses on young Shane O’Shea (Ryan Phillippe), a Jersey kid who pines to be in the big city where he just knows he’ll become rich and famous like his hero Julie Black (Neve Campbell), a fellow New Jersian who stars on a soap opera. Eventually he makes his way to Studio 54 where he literally has to leave his old life behind (they don’t let his friends in) and winds up getting a job. From there he makes a whole new group of friends including coat check girl/wannabe singer Anita (Salma Hayek) and her busboy husband Greg (Breckin Meyer) and does his best to enjoy his new social status when it doesn’t go against a moral code with roots back to his home life in Jersey.

At the end of the day, 54’s story isn’t all that mind-blowing. It’s your basic “lower-middle class kid gets a look at the world of the rich and famous and discovers its not as genuine as he though” story. But, the gilding of the time period is very engrossing if that’s something you’re interested in. All the actors really dove into the characters and seemed to dig deep into some emotional places that all get left on the screen like so many empty bottles after a big party. I wasn’t overly familiar with Phillippe outside of his standard horror appearances in the 90s, but I thought he did a quality job of actually going through the emotions instead of just the motions.I especially enjoyed his various interactions with Ellen Albertini Dow’s Disco Dottie. And, man, Mike Meyers did a killer job of bringing the off-kilter Rubell to life on the big screen.

I read that Chistopher’s intended cut of the film had about 30-40 extra minutes and a variety of extra subplots that were completely cut by Miramax, something that wasn’t uncommon back then. He got his hands on the extra footage and put together a longer version that I would like to see some day, if possible.

Casting Internets

You might have noticed a lack of Casting Internets posts lately. That’s less because I kept forgetting to do them and more because I haven’t been going through my Pocket app for ,well, most of this year. Anyway, here’s a bunch of stories from the past few months that tickled my fancy. manziel browns draft

I’m pretty excited about Johnny Manziel heading to the Browns. They’re not my main team, but I have a special place in my heart for them because my mom’s from there and my grandma was a fan her whole life. (via ESPN)

Rivers Cuomo called Rolling Stone to talk about his love of Nirvana and how the band changed his brain. Fun read for Weezer fans, especially the ones who’ve been hearing for years that he converted Kurt Cobain’s songs into an equation and then wrote his own songs with that formula.

I’m not much of a Buzz Feed fan, but I really dug Kate Aurthur’s interview with Real World San Francisco‘s Rachel about her time on the show.

08-MosEisley

I don’t know if I’ll ever have time to go through this entire post of on StarWars.com about Ralph McQuarrie’s Star Wars art, but maybe you will!schleprock america's dirty little secret

My buddy Jesse sent me this link to Jason Heller’s AV Club piece on punk in the 90s because he talks about that band Schleprock I reviewed a while back. Even without that, it’s a really solid read on a subgenera of music I still love.

Esquire‘s Jennifer M. Wood talked to director Walter Hill about his classic The Warriors. As you might expect, this is a thing I love.

I’m a big fan of Michael Ruhlman and Anthony Bourdain, so when the former interviewed the latter about modern chefs on his blog, I was interested. Personally, I like how conflicted Bourdain is about things like authenticity. It points to the fact that these issues are trickier than some might otherwise present.

Jimmy Page told Rolling Stone that he’s going to start working on his second-ever solo album. Also, I fully support the idea of a Jimmy Page/Jeff Beck tour. Yardbirds Revisited?