A Stjepan Sejic Masterpiece: Harleen.

Harleen 1

“…The whole thing felt like one of those trashy romance tales where a plain, ordinary girl meets Mr. Tall, Sexy and Dangerous. In those stories, the girl helps the beast regain his humanity. In those stories, the beast loves the girl. I assure you, mine is not one such story. No, my story ended up being something completely different. My story’s the one where the girl dances with the devil, and he takes her with him on a long road to hell…”

Harleen 2

My local library finally reopened (with all the usual reopening stipulations, of course) though my car was the only one in the lot, with two librarians and myself the only people inside. The new releases shelves appeared to still have the very same books I’d seen on my last visit back in mid-March. But I was determined not to leave empty-handed, and walked out with the 2020 hardcover of Croatian artist Stjepan Sejic’s magnificent Harleen, collecting the three issues from last year which reimaged the origin of Paul Dini’s and Bruce Timm’s memorable creation, Dr. Harleen Quinzel, AKA Harley Quinn. Here the brilliant young Dr. Quinzel embarks on a study of empathy (or the lack thereof) among the criminals incarcerated in Gotham’s Arkham asylum. She also has a terrifying run-in with the puddin’-to-be. And, frankly, she has some personal issues. All of these things converge, leading Dr. Harleen Quinzel to (or driving her towards) an inevitable conclusion.

Harleen 3

Sejic isn’t just the artist on this project, but the writer as well, which is masterfully done – a terrific tale, beautifully scripted. Still, good as that is, Sejic’s art is what lingers with me, he being one of the very few artists (IMHO) who strive to capture subtleties of gesture and facial expressions, his deft touch with body language matched by few comic artists working today. There are no tedious panel sequences of talking heads here, even though most of the tale sidesteps big action scenes.

If you’re a Bat-verse person and/or in the mood for an extended story about the mallet-wielding crime queen that’s considerably less comical than you’d expect, Harleen is a dark but incredibly poignant tale I’d heartily recommend.

Harleen 4Harleen 5

Bye, Kate.

Batwoman 2

The CW’s Batwoman: You liked it, you hated it (or based on the ratings) you were completely indifferent. Me, I really did like the show, one of very few series I faithfully watched (back-to-back Batwoman and Supergirl episodes made for a nice 7:00 – 9:00 PM CST pre-workweek slot on Sunday evenings). Yes, the show speedily started to build a needlessly complex series of subplots like most CW Arrowverse shows have done, but I still enjoyed the show’s performances, link to DC Comics Bat-Verse and overall look, not minding one bit that many exterior scenes used altered Chicago skylines (notably oft-filmed LaSalle Street and the ubiquitous Board Of Trade Building for Wayne Tower). Quirky Rachel Maddow voice-overs were just icing on my personal Bat-cake.

But then drama unfolded, lead actor Ruby Rose is gone and fan sites buzzed with speculation about the how’s, why’s and what-now’s.

Batwoman 1Myself, I’d have simply recast the role with someone who thought a steady and visible acting gig with a pre-built fan base wasn’t a bad deal in a profession where most actors barely eke out a living by working demeaning day jobs while toiling in anonymity in storefront theaters, corporate training films and local market commercials. Batwoman wouldn’t be the first television series that had to recast a role, though recasting the lead would be pretty unprecedented.

Now the news pops up that the CW powers-that-be have decided instead to abandon the DC Comics-based Kate Kane character altogether and introduce an all-new person to don the Bat-mantle in season two. I smell CW execs concluding that they won’t get screwed by a series lead ever again, so they’ll be poised to rapidly introduce a new Batwoman as needed. Maybe it’s a subtle message to the leads of their other shows: “You too can be replaced”. Who knows?

Elseworlds, Part 2

I’m disappointed, but sure, I’ll check out the new season, which might suck or might be terrific. The fact is, it almost feels silly to even be thinking about a television show at all when a global pandemic can become yesterday’s news in the face of other overwhelming issues. But a part of me hopes that come this Fall or even in early 2021 when new CW superhero series’ seasons debut, the national political scene will have simmered down (one way or another), we’ll be on a path (however meandering) to resolving once and for all the institutionalized inequities in our society, and even the dreaded and deadly virus will be better contained and managed. At least, enough so I can shut my brain off for an hour or two once a week to enjoy a silly costumed superhero TV show. Which I really need to do, ‘cuz it feels like my head’s ready to explode these days.

 

Let’s Call Her ‘CatGirl’.

Under The Moon 1

Lauren Myracle’s Under The Moon – A Catwoman Tale from last Spring was positioned as a YA graphic novel, and certainly speaks to that audience, but just as surely can be enjoyed by us grown-ups. As much as I revere the man in the cape and cowl, the Bat-Universe’s most intriguing characters clearly have been revealed to be the women of Gotham City, whether in the comics themselves, on film or the small screen.

Beautifully illustrated in a fluidly drawn black/grey/blue duotone style by Isaac Goodhart (Postal, etc.) Under The Moon’s book-length tale tells an alternate origin story for Selina Kyle, here a high school student living with an inattentive single mother’s horrible succession of increasingly abusive boyfriends, the current one a violent, sadistic drunk. A loner by nature, Selina finds little solace at school where a bestie-wannabe is a little too clingy and childhood playmate Bruce Wayne seems lost in his own world. Selina flees, living by her wits on the streets till she hooks up with a trio of misfit runaways and becomes embroiled in a high-stakes heist…at Wayne Manor no less.

Under The Moon 4

Myracle’s story is a poignant and plausible alternate vision for Selina Kyle/Catwoman’s origin (make that ‘CatGirl here) and the building blocks of a pre-Batman and pre-Catwoman relationship are smartly put in place. When released, this title came with retailer warnings about rough language and edgy content, and that’s in there, all right, but it never felt forced and only the most close-minded could object. A (I suppose) necessary subplot about a grisly Gotham City serial killer seemed intrusive, but with everything else done so well, I even went along with that.  I mean, how can you not fall in love with a hoodie with cat ears as the beginnings of an iconic costume?

Under The Moon 3

I grabbed this one at the library when I popped in to pick up a reserved book, and blew through it over a Saturday afternoon coffee break (a break that went a little longer than planned. Okay…a break that went way longer than planned). If Myracle and Goodhart have a sequel up their sleeve, I’m in. More CatGirl for me, please!

Under The Moon 5

Master Stylist: Darwyn Cooke

Darwyn Cooke - 6 - Parker

No one’s passing is good news. But when beloved or talented people leave us at a young age, it’s doubly painful. We can’t help but wonder what else they’d have created if granted more time.

Darwyn Cooke - 5 - Parker

Canadian artist, illustrator and animator Darwyn Cooke was just such a case. The master stylist was born in Toronto but grew up in Nova Scotia, where he learned to draw at an early age by ‘deconstructing’ comics, attempting to replicate the style of the illustrations…and in doing so, developing his own very distinctive style. Know him for his stunning comics work on Batman, Catwoman (that’s where I first discovered his work) and Richard Stark’s Parker, or for his animation work for The New Adventures Of Batman and Batman Beyond, or know him for winning thirteen Eisner Awards. But know that, sadly, he succumbed to cancer in 2016 at age 53. But his work lives on…

Darwyn Cooke - 7 ParkerDarwyn Cooke - 3 - The SpiritDarwyn Cooke 1Darwyn Cooke 2Darwyn Cooke 4 - ParkerDarwyn Cooke - 8 - Parker

The Dark Knight At 80.

Detective Comics No. 27

I think today’s the day. March 30th. Eighty years ago, Detective Comics No. 27 introduced the world to the Bat-man with the May 1939 issue, released at the end of March. Not that I was around then, of course. You either, I assume.

A Bat!

Still, Batman was my introduction to comics, and I was immediately hooked. No superpowers, magic rings or intergalactic hijinks. Still a fellow in a cape and tights, but a driven, dark, vengeful fellow, born from unspeakable tragedy. The character’s gone through many different evolutions, from downright silly periods in the 1950’s to the campy mid-60’s ABC television series, then reimagined some years later in a homage to Bruce Wayne/Batman’s original roots, though driven still deeper and darker.

Used bookstore shrink-wrapped bundles of older late 60’s-early 70’s era Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams stand-alone story issues were what really lured me in, and even if they were already dated, the lonely detective-warrior of that era got to me. Still does. Time-Warner-DC marketing mavens turned everything into ‘events’ at some point in the late 80’s and early 90’s, with instant collectible alternate covers, mini-series, spinoff’s and other manipulative nonsense.  And now I enjoy other denizens of Gotham City a bit more — Selina Kyle/Catwoman and various incarnations of Batgirl – when I buy superhero comics at all.

But it’ll always be The Batman for me, ‘cuz that’s where comics first hooked me, and there’s just no suitable way to thank Bob Kane and Bill Finger, then Neal Adams, Jim Aparo, Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino, Frank Miller, Irv Novick, Denny O’Neil, Jerry Robinson, Marshall Rogers, Dick Sprang, Bruce Timm and so many other writers and artists for eighty years of dark and brooding thrills with The Dark Knight.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑