Classic Comic Double Feature: The Rocketeer (1991) & Dick Tracy (1990)

rocketeer posterA few weekends back we found ourselves in the enviable position of experiencing a light snowfall without much else to do so we decided to scroll through our On Demand options for a family movie. As it turns out we have free Showtime for a bit and The Rocketeer was on there, so we decided to give it a watch.

I don’t remember if I saw this movie in the theaters when it came out, but we did subscribe to Disney Channel back then (long before it was free) so I remember seeing a lot about it and probably caught it on TV.

Set in 1938, it’s about a stunt pilot named Cliff who discovers a rocket pack in his plane, designs a costume and helmet and fights bad guys including local mobsters (lead by Pau Sorvino) and movie star Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton) all while trying to keep things going with his girlfriend Jenny (Jennifer Connelley).

Directed by Joe Johnston who went on to eventually helm Captain America: The First Avenger, the movie not only works as an action-packed superhero film, but also a fun period piece that references a number of classic actors, actresses and other historical figures from the era (including Lost star Terry O’Quinn as Howard Hughes!). Add to that that real-life elements like potential Hollywood stars working with the Nazis and mobsters refusing to do the same and you have a great film that holds up really well aside from a few clunky special effects scenes here and there.

As a kid, I had no idea who the Rocketeer was before the film hit, but now I know that it was an indie comic book created by Dave Stevens in the 80s during that boom. However, I never got around to reading the actual comics until last year when I got my hands on the IDW-published reprint of Stevens’ entire run, though I was more interested in the pictures. You really don’t need to read the words because the art is just so crisp, clear and expressive. Plus, the colors in that book are just amazing. I don’t know how they compare to the original, but imagine they’re much better given IDW’s reputation for doing super high quality reprints and today’s far better printing techniques.

Dick-Tracy-PosterWhile scrolling through the options to get to The Rocketeer, I also saw Dick Tracy as an option. I LOVED this movie as a kid and realized that, given the obvious similarities, it would make for an excellent double feature mate with Rocketeer.

Based on the classic comic strip created by Chester Gould in the 1930s, Dick Tracy was directed by and starred Warren Beatty as the yellow-clad copper. He’s joined by Charlie Kormo’s The Kid, Madonna’s Breathless Mahoney, Al Pacino’s Big Boy and a variety of others as Tracy attempts to bring the mob boss down while keeping his relationship with Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headly) together and figuring out what to do with his new ward.

The beauty of this movie is that Beatty went full boat when it came to recreating the look and feel of the comic strips on the big screen. The suits and cars are all wildly colorful, matte paintings give the world an ethereal feel and the bag guy make-up brings characters like Little Face, Flat Top and Pruneface fully to life. Add in the idea of a kid trying to constantly get in on grown-up cop action, the pseudo love triangle with Breathless and the mystery of No Face and you’ve got a super fun and compelling movie that doesn’t get enough kudos from the comic-loving crowd.

As I mentioned, I was a huge fan of this flick when it came out. I definitely remember seeing it in the theater and as scenes appeared on my TV I remembered them from that viewing experience as well as moments captured by the trading card set. That feeling has lingered to this day when I basically want an Apple Watch just so I can feel like Dick Tracy (anyone else remember the wrist watch walkie talkies they sold?).

My four year old daughter slept through most of the first film and was looking at Disney princess dresses during the second, but I’m not sure if I’d recommend these for kids her age. Given the presence of mobsters, shooting, concrete and Madonna’s crazy dresses, it might not be appropriate.

That reminds me. I’m not a fan of Madonna’s outside of this movie and A League Of Their Own, but man, she just KILLS it in this movie. I’m sure I was dazzled by her sheer dresses as a kid, but this time around I really found myself feeling bad for her when she was ever so desperately trying to convince Dick Tracy to love her. Her character adds an interesting intensity to this film that just adds to the overall unique nature of a project that could have easily become what all the terrible late 90s comic book movies turned into: exaggerated cartoons with no concept of what made the source material work.

So, while these might not be the best movies to show a couple of kids (like we did), they are a ton of fun and act as a kind of vanguard for quality comic-based films that would come a decade or so later.

Adventures In Freelancing: Looking Back At 2015

monkey-typing2015 was the fifth full year that I worked as a freelance writer. It’s wild to think about. I got unceremoniously and somewhat surprisingly laid off from Wizard in September of 2009. With no idea what I would do with the rest of my career (a fun thought to have at 26) my friends jumped at the chance to set me up with freelance work. I wasn’t sure if it would stick, but dove in and am still rolling today.

That year I wrote for Marvel.com, Maxim.com, Topless Robot, Wizard, ToyFare, UGO, MTV Geek, Click and even a bit for CBR and realized I could actually do alright for myself with just my brain, a computer and a solid internet connection. Since then, a few of those outlets have gone defunct (I miss seeing my work on the magazine stand) and some completely changed directions since then. These days I find myself mainly working for three sites: Marvel.com, CBR and Geek.com and I’m digging it. Looking back at the past year, it seemed like an okay time to reflect a bit on the ups and downs of the year. Continue reading Adventures In Freelancing: Looking Back At 2015

Angel: After The Fall Trade Post Volumes 1-4

angel after the fall volume 1As I said earlier this week, I was a big fan of Buffy. For whatever reason — most likely scheduling conflicts or a bit of a weak first season — that did not carry over to Angel. I loved the character’s twists and turns on Buffy and the intensely insane relationship with her, but I just never got into his solo show. Looking in from the outside, it seemed like the show moved so fast and added so much mythology and so many characters that it was difficult to jump into an episode later on down the line. I did catch the finale, which is good because that’s right where Angel: After The Fall picks up.

When I was at Wizard, I was the IDW contact (and actually am again these days for CBR), so I interviewed writer Brian Lynch a few times about his Spike and Angel comics for the company. He worked with Joss Whedon to figure out the beats and then got to work writing the comic along with artists like Franco Urru, Stephen Mooney and others to bring this story together about what happened after the evil Wolfram & Hart corporation sent LA to hell. Continue reading Angel: After The Fall Trade Post Volumes 1-4

Casting Internets

Check it out, I talked to John Layman about Mars Attacks and Chew: Secret Agent Poyo as well as the new McFarlane Haunt statue. Ooooh, Mike Cho drew Doctor Strange. He also did Spider-Man, click through for that one.

The SketchAttack crew is doing Doctor Who this time around. It’s interesting how many police box/phone booth drawings came up.

This is pretty rad, The Fwoosh showed off shots of DC Collectibles’ Tiny Titans set. These are great looking little toys.

I’m not much of a sweet or dessert fan, but I would definitely try deep fried Trix and Cinnamon Toast as seen on Esquire.This Nestron robot warrior T-shirt for sale on RedBubble is amazing.

YES! Daria reruns will be back on MTV in the morning between July 30 and August 3. Now I just have to remember because I’m all over that. To be honest, I will probably also watch reruns of Laguna Beach and The Hills as well. (via THR)

Will TV’s Loss Be Bootleggers’ Gain?

In the last few days word has gotten out that Fox did not pick up the Locke & Key pilot and NBC passed on Wonder Woman. Being a big fan of the first Locke & Key volume written by Joe Hill and produced by IDW and various incarnations of Wonder Woman, I’m bummed, but as someone who used to jones for bootlegs of unavailable comic book movies and shows, I’m kind of excited. When I was younger I got pretty jazzed whenever I heard about a show or movie that was never released. Whether we’re talking about the Roger Corman Fantastic Four movie, the Justice League TV pilot, the animated Gen 13 movie or anything else, I was interested and on the hunt at conventions. As such, I have shitty VHS dupes of all the above as well as the original Buffy pilot and a few other things.

It’s been a while since something like this has happened though. The last one I can remember is the Aquaman/Mercy Reef WB pilot that I got to see when I was at Wizard and even that was released on iTunes, I think. I know these things are more likely to be downloaded now instead of picked up at comic cons for exorbitant prices, but it does give me a tiny thrill knowing that two more shows might be added to the list of “shows you’re not supposed to see.” Of course, it’s possible that these shows will get picked up by another network or legitimately put out on DVD/Blu-ray/Netflix/iTunes. I’m all in favor of that too, I just want to see them, even more so because I’m not supposed to.

News Of The Day: Kurtzman & Orci Doing Locke & Key TV Show!

This actually feels like a Crossovers I Want To See that I never even thought of. /Film‘s reporting that writers/producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (who, I’ve mentioned, are awesome) have optioned Joe Hill’s horror/fantasy comic Locke and Key from IDW (which I just read and really enjoyed) for a TV series. Some of you might be thinking, “Hey aren’t they the guys who wrote Transformers 2? And didn’t that movie suck ass?” To which I would say, yes on all counts, but I’m guessing their original script was much better than whatever Michael Bay turned it into. The duo also had a hand in creating Fringe, which I really liked and only stopped watching because it was opposite something else I liked even more. I’m fickle like that. I’m sure the Locke and Key show will take a while to get it’s feet off the ground, but I’m excited to see what happens with the project and what new doors are explored in both the comics and potential series.

News Of The Day: Machete Comic

Robot 6 reported today that IDW will be producing a comic based on Robert Rodriguez’s upcoming Machete movie starring Danny Trejo (who talked about the movie back in 2007 when I interviewed him for Wizard). As you probably know, the movie first saw life during Grindhouse when Rodriguez created what most people call a fake trailer. It looked pretty rad and the movie’s got a solid cast, so I’ve got faith it will be rad.

But, I’m not sure what to think about the comic. IDW puts out pretty much only licensed comics at this point, with varying degrees of quality. Putting Rodriguez’s name on the book doesn’t really mean anything, though I do think he would be great working on comics. He could be on the book like Joss Whedon works on Buffy Season 8 or it could be how Whedon worked on the Angel comic. Even if the story is just based on story notes from the director, it could be good, I guess. We’ll have to wait and see.