MAKING THE FINAL FILM-WATCHING LEAP! by Eric Emma

The one thing that I pride myself in is the diversity of the movies that I have seen and how I continually try to keep pushing that. However, there are some gaps and so I decided that needs to be corrected.

I went through the below best of lists and picked out every movie that I hadn’t seen till I reached 100. You’ll notice I also went through so-bad-its-good movies since like I said, I want to see the full spectrum. (I also added the only John Woo American Film that I have yet to see) I decided to share this list since it’s unique, random, and anyone else that wants to join in on this challenge will be better for it that I’m sure of.

The Best of Lists:

AFI Best 100 List

BBC 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time

IMDB.com Top 250

Spike Lee's Essential Film List

Top 25 So Bad It's Good Movies

1.       Heaven’s Gate (1980)

2.       In a Lonely Place (1950)

3.       Meet Me in St Louis (1944)

4.       The Shanghai Gesture (1941)

5.       Red River (1948)

6.       The Right Stuff (1983)

7.       Johnny Guitar (1954)

8.       Love Streams (1984)

9.       The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

10.   Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

11.   Grey Gardens (1975)

12.   His Girl Friday (1940)

13.   Days of Heaven (1978)

14.   Marnie (1964)

15.   Sherlock Jr (1924)

16.   Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

17.   Imitation of Life (1959)

18.   The Lady Eve (1941)

19.   A Woman Under the Influence (1974)

20.   Greed (1924)

21.   McCabe & Mrs Miller (1971)

22.   Nashville (1975)

23.   The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

24.   Sunrise (1927)

25.   King Kong Lives (1986)

26.   All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

27.   The Sound of Music (1965)

28.   Cabret (1972)

29.   Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf (1962)

30.   An American in Paris (1951)

31.   Wuthering Heights (1939)

32.   In the Heat of Night (1967)

33.   Sparticus (1960)

34.   The Jazz Singer (1927)

35.   Swing Time (1936)

36.   Sophie's Choice (1982)

37.   Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

38.   Saving Private Ryan (1998)

39.   Intolerance (1916)

40.   Sullivan's Travels (1941)

41.   Whiplash (2014)

42.   Paths of Glory (1957)

43.   Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

44.   The Kid (1921)

45.   The Great Escape (1963)

46.   Warrior (2011)

47.   Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

48.   Into the Wild (2007)

49.   Rush (2013)

50.   Mary and Max (2009)

51.   Stand by Me (1986)

52.   The Princess Bride (1987)

53.   The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

54.   In the Name of the Father (1993)

55.   Before Sunrise (1995)

56.   The Imitation Game (2014)

57.   Roman Holiday (1953)

58.   The Help (2011)

59.   Prisoners (2013)

60.   Papillon (1973)

61.   Before Sunset (2004)

62.   Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

63.   The Killing (1956)

64.   Bad Lieutenant (1992)

65.   The Train (1964)

66.   Fat City (1972)

67.   Marathon Man (1969)

68.   Home of the Brave (1949)

69.   Thief (1981)

70.   Coolie High (1975)

71.   Blue Collar (1978)

72.   Cool Hand Luke (1967)

73.   Empire of the Sun (1977)

74.   Hoop Dreams (1984)

75.   Lust for Life (1956)

76.   Dead End (1937)

77.   Zelig (1983)

78.   Daughters of the Dust (1991)

79.   Troll 2 (1990)

80.   Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)

81.   Dragonball: Evolution

82.   The Last Airbender

83.   Hercules in New York (1969)

84.   Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977)

85.   9 Deaths of the Ninja (1985)

86.   Highlander II: The Quickening (1991)

87.   Santa with Muscles (1996)

88.   Navy Seals (1990)

89.   Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (1987)

90.   Over the Top (1987)

91.   Leonard Part 6 (1987)

92.   Zardoz (1974)

93.   Howling II: … Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985)

94.   The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

95.   Glen or Glenda (1953)

96.   The Wicker Man (2006)

97.   Gymkata (1985)

98.   Abraxas: Guardian of the Universe (1990)

99.   Windtalkers (2002)

100.  The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (1987)

 

COSMOCAT AND THE ADVENTURES OF THE PETRICHOR! by Eric Emma

Pitch meetings are a fickle beast. You think you're selling a bushel of wheat and you come out having to sell zucchini. I pitched Cosmocat a month or so back and gained some interest from the company, but they wanted to see it for older kids. So... Jacob and I have been in the lab working away and re-inventing Cosmo for older kids. I'm not ready to really reveal any official details, but here's some early concept art that I think is pretty rad.

HENRY AND EMMA, about a web-series, I wrote and directed… by Eric Emma

EmmaAndHenry

So as we finished the last shot of the day at around 7PM on Sunday after a long day of shooting, there was a sadness in the air between cast and crew. Is this it? You could feel a real hunger and want to get back to this as soon as possible and find out what happens between these two characters.

For those that have not chatted with me in the last 2-3 months, “Henry and Emma” is about a bitter scriptwriter that has not made “it” and his crush on his bright-eyed neighbor that has recently moved to LA with her boyfriend to follow her dream of being a comedian.  When I first began writing this back in January, the only thing I knew was… It has to be cheap and no SFX/Props, or multiple characters. So the idea of a man trapped in his apartment in a city that flaunts the success that eludes him was particularly interesting to me.

The other aspect that pervades all my work is the idea of oppression, namely in this case, the oppression of women in the industry. I wanted to write something that was funny and accessible, but also highlighted the struggles of what it was like to be a woman trying to break in. Enter Henry. A bitter white male that believes he never caught a break, but he’s a genius. Enter Emma, this talented/smart girl that’s coming from Ohio with literally nothing and has to break in, but is super positive anyway. What a lovely combination. As I distributed drafts to friends, consistently the men who read it would sympathize with Henry for being in the “friend zone”, while the women would sympathize with Emma because they knew the headache waiting for her. This to me was good.

Bless Dave Sorafine, the producer and magic man of the project. This project begins and ends with Dave. He initially asked me back in November if I could write him something that his company, Sherwood Productions, could shoot. First draft of the season, he gave me his notes, and then on the second, he just said we’re good to go. From the get-go, there was a trust between us that you don’t always get. I trusted him with production, he trusted me with creative. And it was the greatest thing in the world. Now on to casting.

One of the concessions of the budget was that I do casting directing. I should be diplomatic, but the most soul-crushing thing in the world is going through headshots and reels. The avalanche of artists that haven’t put time or thought into their craft is painful. Somehow I managed to cobble together the 30 or so people to bring in to an audition. Dave and Chris Viglone, also producing/DPing, ran the audition from LA. I received the tape later that night. We conferred. I made the phone calls. And we were cast. And in a few days, I was on a flight to LA. It was on the flight that it dawned on me… “Dude… you’re directing this… Whoa.”

Honestly, I had no idea how this was going to go. Friday night was the rehearsal. I’m sitting there with the two actors, Dave Gironda Jr & Teresa Decher, and Dave and Chris. We all introduce ourselves and everyone seems nice enough. Then we start the cold read. And then it happens. The first laugh. That’s all I need. Just give me one genuine laugh to know that this is all going be okay. And from there, we all started clicking. It was amazing because there was no ego on the set. Everyone knew their job. Everyone contributed. And most importantly, everyone wanted to make the best possible show and it was awesome.

What I quickly figured out and loved was my directing style is not this is authoritarian dictatorship, its figuring out collectively the best ideas and executing that. For example, one of my concerns was… We don’t have an art director on this. Quickly, we realize that Chris has this covered from picking out the outfits to arting the counter-top of every scene. The true joy was reconstructing the scenes and letting the actors play with the lines and feeling out what works and what does not work.

I understood the characters better after we were finished. One of my fears with the “Emma” character was I don’t want this character to be a ditz, yet I deliberately wanted to write a feminist that’s not an academic.  Teresa interjected a really weird/goofy side to the character that I loved. All of sudden made this relationship much interesting and palpable. And David, there was this weird seriousness that makes me laugh every time Henry is disturbed. And all of this came out of the conversations that we had about the characters. Some of my favorite moments was just talking to Dave G and Teresa about the characters.

(Side Note: Dave Gironda said "No" to us once and it was over a proposed stunt that involved jumping, a coffee-maker, and possible injury... Then did it anyway... The mark of a great actor.) 

And then it ended around 7PM on Sunday and we were all left wondering, will we see more “Henry and Emma.” Dave and Chris are hard at work editing it together so we’ll have to wait and see what the fate of the series is. Regardless, it was an absolutely lovely experience and I am forever thankful to everyone involved because at around 7 PM on Sunday, I was a better artist.

 

MONSTER BREEDING REPORT #8 by Eric Emma

MONSTER 2: KLACK AND ROE, ANIMATED PILOT & FUTURE EPISODES

GESTATION CYCLE: POST-PRODUCTION/WRITING

Almost there! The last pass on the animation was almost final. We have a couple of adjustments to make and other bits and pieces to tie up, but we’re near the finish line on the pilot.

On when we will be releasing it, we need to shoot it to various prospective backers before we decide on a distribution plan, but… Have no fear… Klack and Roe shall be seen soon!

On past the pilot, Jake and I have the entire season written out. We had a reading last night that went amazing so now we’ll just be tweaking those till we get the greenlight to go into production on those.  Stay tune!

MONSTER 3: COSMO CAT. PRESCHOOL TV SHOW PITCH

GESTATION CYCLE: WRITING/PRE-PRODUCTION

I’m pitching Cosmo Cat next week to an animation company so we shall see what happens!

MONSTER 5: HENRY & EMMA, LIVE ACTION WEB SERIES

GESTATION CYCLE: POST-PRODUCTION

Bigger blog post coming after this one on the experience of shooting this. It went absolutely amazing and it’s currently in editing now. Stills and a full page coming soon to the website.

MONSTER 6: THE PROMETHEUS HACK, FEATURE LENGTH SCRIPT

GESTATION CYCLE: WRITING

I’m about 35 pages into this thing. It consumes my mind.

MONSTER 7: THE LUSH LIFE OF BILLY CHAZ, FEATURE LENGTH SCRIPT

GESTATION CYCLE: WRITING

A new project I’m writing with Jake Rich. (Co-Writer/Co-Creator on Klack and Roe). Right now this is just incubating, but we’ll be starting real work on this soon.

MONSTER 8: *************

Coming soon.

BATMAN: THE FIRST THREE YEARS! by Eric Emma

The Great Batman Reading Project:

The Great Batman Reading Project: The Introduction!

Part 1: Batman #1-4 (1940)

READ SO FAR:

Batman Year One
Batman Year Two
Batman Year Three
Batman Full Circle
Batman Tales of the Demon
Batman Man Who Laughs
Batman in the Fifties
Batman #1-5
The Joker, Stacked Deck: The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told (Expanded Edition)

In the late 80s, DC faced a problem that the big two (Marvel & DC) have faced many times before: stagnation. DC had been around for near 50 years. To reconcile years of continuity, DC had often used the multiverse. The multiverse was a creation of Gardner Fox (Guy Gardner is a tribute to him!) when he wrote the story “Flash of Two Worlds” in “The Flash” #123. That particular story set up the concept that there are multiple worlds that operate on different frequencies. They refer to each world by a number, i.e. “Earth-1” “Earth-2”, etc. This way they didn’t have to deal with the many inconsistencies in the continuity. This device though it sounds overly complicated, really wasn’t. The reason: comics were simpler back.

The reason the original comics are worth as much as they are, besides being historical artifacts, is that people were not saving comics. They were mass produced and thrown away like newspapers. When someone opened up a comic that took place in Earth-1 or Earth-2, it didn’t matter, he or she was tuned into that stand-alone story. It only matter to comic nerds and if a cross-over was happening. By the time the 80s rolled around, times had changed. Comics had grown up. There was a demand for collections and continuity, which now made the whole damn thing too confusing, since people were trying to make sense of the histories of these characters.

DC decided to do something bold: blow up the entire thing. They would restart the entire DC Universe. Enter Marv Wolfman’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, which ends with all the worlds merging into one universe. After which, all the characters were restarted… Sorta.

DC couldn’t completely start from scratch because to do so would destroy popular characters that relied on history. An example of this is “Nightwing.” Nightwing is Robin all grown up so you can’t have Nightwing if Batman is going to just be starting out. What DC did was keep all the characters the same age as they were before they merged the world, but they would hire creative teams to do retellings of their flagship characters that would be considered the definite canon going forward. One of the most famous of these was Frank Millar’s Batman: Year One. After which, DC followed up with not so-well known Batman: Year 2 and Year 3 stories. Ed Brubaker wrote “The Man Who Laughs” in 2005 as a sequel to Year One. It’s also retelling of Batman #1 and Detective Comics #168 (The Man Behind the Red Hood).

So let’s start with my thoughts on the trilogy of Year 1, Year 2, and Year 3. Then I’ll finish with Man Who Laughs. I’m going to save my thoughts for Batman Tales of the Demon/Batman in the Fifties for my next blog post because my feeling is after I read Batman in the 60s. I’m going be able to tie all that together really well.

Batman Year 1. Out of everything that I’ve read thus far, this is the farthest you get from Batman. You could also make the argument it’s the closest to being true art and not a product for mass consumption. This is Millar’s Batman. This is not Millar adding to a character that has been collectively written for 50 years. That is a fairly big distinction that ultimately is what keeps it from being a favorite of mine. Clearest examples of this is in Millar’s Bat Universe, Selena Kyle is a prostitute with some martial arts ability. In this world, Jim Gordon is cheating on his wife. Millar is writing what he feels comfortable with regardless of whether it fits the 50 years that had come before. 

I have issues with Year One. The first is from a story constructive point of view. The whole idea of covering the first year of Batman’s career in graphic novel is ambitious and at times, it feels a little hollow. Millar relies on heavy exposition through the use of first person narrator splitting between Bruce and Jim Gordon. What Millar does is have far too much talking heads and it’s fairly interesting since he portrays Bruce as a psychopath and Jim on a man on the brink. To me, though, I want to see more interaction in the world. Actual scenes instead of Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon talking at me. What’s worse is that I don’t even feel these are accurate representations of the characters.

Batman is a super-hero. Everything he does breaks common sense and logic even if his powers are not divined from supernatural or equally fantastic pseudo-science means. Part of the super-hero is that they are super, not only in the psychical sense, but emotionally. As we read these stories, we long to be men and women of mental fortitude that can go out night after night enduring/inflicting extreme amounts of violence, while not succumbing to the emotional toll. Millar in a need to legitimize and dare I say be edgy, takes Batman to a place of being a psychotic. Which is no less realistic, and is less fun. For this reason, his later attempts at the character failed because the silliness of it became more pronounced.

Also my problem with Batman Year One is one that others have highlighted in the past, it’s not a Batman story, it is a Jim Gordon’s story. Is there anything REALLLY that interesting in the Batman narrative outside of the over-use of voice-over and melancholy? All of the interesting stuff happens with Jim. His affair. His relationship with Flass. Etc. Which is fine… It’s all fairly interesting, but to me, I think it is a bit misleading that this story is billed as the DEFINING Batman story, when it really isn’t. It’s more of an interesting aside, more than anything else. 

Also I hate how everything is neatly wrapped up in the end so that we never have to think about the incongruities of this Frank Millar world to the way it’s normally showed. In many ways, I feel like Batman Year One is an elseworld tale. Batman Year One offers a lot of bits and pieces that have been incorporated into the Batman Mythos, but the actual heart/meat of the story has been discarded because it isn’t Batman.

Batman Year 2. Is an interesting tale. Written by Mike W Barr. Barr has a far more interesting take on Batman than Millar. He understands the unrealistic balance that Batman has to tread as he faces a grim underworld. Batman faces many dark and disconcerting elements, but ultimately, Batman must never lose his own morality in his fight against crime or it is all for naught. To show this, Barr created a vigilante that preceded the Batman: the Reaper. The Reaper has been gone from Gotham for many years and during his hey-day, he was more gruesome than the villains he slayed. The Reaper killed with little regard. In Batman’s second year in Gotham, the Reaper returns and is murdering the criminals of Gotham. Quickly, Batman is placed in direct conflict with the Reaper. Batman makes a deal with Gotham’s underworld for a cease-fire, as they work together to find and take down the Reaper. Batman is forced to work with Joe Chill, the man who murdered his parents. 

Year Two is not nearly as well known or loved as Year One and I believe it’s because it fits into a larger continuity. Year Two read on its own is quite silly unlike Year One, which is overly silly. This is why I’m not the biggest fan of Year One. I feel like Millar is trying to make Batman something he isn’t. Batman is fun. Batman fights villains that are called the Penguin, Riddler, and the Joker. Year Two embraces this. It’s far more endearing to have Bruce Wayne struggling with his internal conflict to be good, while also wanting revenge for his parents. Then to have Bruce moodily brooding, while he beats the shit out of pimps and other disgusting human beings. Year 2 also features one of my favorite Batman tropes. He’s in love with a woman that sees through the guise of his playboy persona, and sees Bruce is in pain, but ultimately, Bruce can’t be with the woman he’s in love with because of his devotion to his fight against crime.

The sequel, Full Circle, deals with legacy. Joe Chill dies at the hand of the Reaper in Year 2. Years later in current continuity. The Reaper returns. We later find out that it is Joe Chill’s son who has taken on the mantle of the Reaper and he’s out for revenge for Batman. This story highlights the importance of Robin to the Batman mythos. The tragic element of Batman is that he will never know true happiness hence why ne never stays with any of his many loves. He is irreparably damaged by the events of his parents’ death. Year 2/Full Circle give clarity to his quest in that Bruce realizes he himself must stop the cycle of violence. He ultimately decides to spare Joe Chill Jr’s life so that Chill Jr can have a relationship with his son. Also that Batman’s own relationship with Robin is important because he saving Robin from being as broken as he is.

Batman Year 3 was written by Marv Wolfman. The same Wolfman that restarted the continuity with “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” More importantly, Wolfman wrote Teen Titans in the 1980s. Teen Titans was DC’s answer to X-Men. The Titans is a team consisting of the sidekicks of DC and it is in this book that Dick Grayson developed in Nightwing. Dick realized that Bruce was too overbearing for him and he needed to strike out on his own so he gave up being Robin and became Nightwing. Batman Year Three is a story that was told in then contemporary 1989 continuity with Dick as Nightwing, with flashbacks to the third year in Batman’s crime fighting career.

I absolutely loved the story structure of Year 3. It’s one of the most brilliant stories of Batman that I’ve read so far. It begins with a mafia boss being eliminated in spectacular fashion. It’s the latest in a string of hits and Batman is unable to deduce who is behind the string of hits. Worse, Batman is deep in depression over the death of Jason Todd (Robin II) at the hands of the Joker and is in danger of going off the deep end and losing being able to keep his morality. It cuts to the parole hearing of Boss Zucco, the man responsible for Dick Grayson’s parents/ death. The story is half flash-back (Boss Zucco rise in the underworld/Batman taking in Dick Grayson) and Batman tracking down the killer of the mob bosses.

This story is the perfect cap to this trilogy of stories because it follows on the thread of legacy. We learn that Zucco was an orphan and his parents were also murdered by mobsters. Unlike Dick, or Bruce, he turned to a life of crime and became a hardened criminal. One of the fascinating aspects is that Alfred tells us that he was able to temper Dick unlike Bruce, because Bruce left for years. We see this exemplified in the story as Batman sinks deeper into depression and Dick is there to pull him out. Dick Grayson is the hope of the future because he has a chance to live a happy life, while unfortunately, Bruce will always be haunted by the past.

This leads us to Man Who Laughs, which takes place directly after Year One. It's pretty great because it merges Batman #1 and “The Man Behind the Hood” in one story. “The Man Behind The Hood” was a story written in the 50s about 10 years after the introduction of the Joker. It revolves around Batman being a guest speaker at a class for criminology and he has the class try to solve one of his old cases, the case of “The Red Hood.” Batman had thought the Red Hood died after the Hood jumped into a vat of chemicals during a confrontation with the Batman. The Red Hood returns and starts a new series of crimes so the cape crusader and the class begin trying to solve the mystery of The Red Hood. The story ends with the reveal that the Red Hood was the Joker.
“The Man Who Laughs” begins with the pretext that Batman had recently fought the Red Hood and like the earlier comic of the fifties, it ended with the red hood diving in the chemical. The Man Who Laughs follows a similar plot to “Batman #1”, which is the Joker appears on the scene and is issuing out public threats to murder the Gotham Elite. Earlier I mentioned that Finger couldn't possibly have known he was writing a character that would last 75 years so the scope was far smaller. In Batman #1, when Joker is foiled, it leads to the Joker being imprisoned with the intent of setting up for another story. While Man Who Laughs is trying to define a seventy five year struggle. So the end of “The Man Who Laughs” is Batman stopping Joker plan to murder everyone in Gotham by poisoning the Gotham water supply. Also it leads to Batman having to choose whether to kill the Joker or not because by this point, the Joker has murder several people. Batman, of course, chooses not to and we as an audience know that Batman is setting up for Joker’s return… and more deaths. That the price is too great to kill the Joker. It would mean Batman’s morality.

The early 1940 stories never really concerned themselves with what are the consequences of Batman’s goodness. That’s what I find fascinating. When DC set out to retell Batman’s origins in the late 80s, hundreds of Batman stories had been written to that point. A clear paradox had developed and never considered before. The VILLAINS ALWAYS COME BACK. In the 90s, Image Comics sought to be edgy and hip, by killing the villains of their comics and not having them come back. Image Comics initially made lots of money, but then soon, the luster wore off and there was something wrong with this concept of villains not coming back. The reason? People want their heroes to struggle because that’s what we deal with in our everyday lives. 

The question Batman faces at the end of “The Man Who Laughs” perfectly symbolizes his struggle: if I killed the villain, then the villain won’t kill anyone again, but then I am evil and then where do I stand? This is the theme that runs through all these stories. Year One the quest to become the hero. Year Two sought to explore Batman discovering his code of ethics. Full Circle/Year Three/Man Who Laughs sought to explore the consequences of that code and what does it all add up to.

OBSERVATIONS ON BATMAN PART 1: Batman #1-4 (1940) by Eric Emma

I am going to visit my parents next week in Rhode Island so I’ve actually sent all the Batman books to their house. However, I have begun reading the issues on my Comixology account. I am jumping about a year in Batman’s history to Batman #1-4. Batman first appeared in DC’s “Detective Comics #27”in May 1939, while, Batman #1 didn't come out till April 1940 at which point the character had taken off and DC decided to give Batman his own title.

This detail is important because by the time Batman #1 comes out, Batman has really solidified into his own unique character. This fact is highlighted in Batman #4, where an editor's note lets us know in no uncertain terms: "The Batman never carries or kills with a gun!" This is in stark contrast to a year prior in Detective Comics where Batman is running around killing villains with a gun.

Also Batman’s suit had morphed into what we normally associate with the Batman:

Detective Comics #27:

http://cdn.bleedingcool.net/wp-content/uploads//2011/02/dc2.jpg/

Batman #1

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-rKKCpt9NRNE/VPsv0qkE6SI/AAAAAAAADk4/CLHKS_IOhKw/s1600/hero-envy-batman4b.png

The most fascinating aspect to these early Batman issue is that while Batman was gaining increasing popularity, there was no way for the creators to realize they were creating a world that was going to need to sustain HUNDREDS of stories for the next 75 years. Inherently, this quality separates it from the Bat stories that I'll be reading later. 

It took me a while to figure this out because as I was reading these issues, I kept scratching my head as to what makes them feel different outside the obvious that their written in completely different time period. I mean... Batman is there. He's a vigilante. His alter-ego of Bruce Wayne is established as a rich playboy. And then it hit me... This is not a fully formed world by any stretch. Nothing has any real weight to it. With that in mind, it makes sense that the following has yet to be introduced into Batman’s world: the Batmobile (to come in Batman #5), Alfred, Gotham, the Batcave, the rogues gallery/Arkham Asylum, Wayne Corp, and Commissioner Gordon AS WE KNOW HIM.

Side Note. On Commissioner Gordon. He is there, but he's merely a plot device used when Batman needs to get information about a case. It's pretty poorly done. It's always, Bruce and Jim are friends so Jim Gordon will take Bruce with him when he's asking suspect questions. There’s nothing in the character that represents what their dynamic will be later on and that’s because the concept of Gotham has not yet come to fruition.

In these early stories, characters are introduced simply to serve the plot, but hold no real weight to Bruce and Dick’s existence. In fact, it never really feels like they are real and breathing characters with actually fleshed out backstories. Take the existence of Gotham for example. Gotham as a city is HUGE to defining Batman, yet Gotham doesn’t exist in these stories. Batman operates in a pretty generic city. Taking that further, Wayne Corp doesn’t exist. Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered, but we have none of the context to know that they were murdered because Gotham is this decaying city and they were activity trying to help restore the city the loved. So when as I read these early stories, it’s hard to be invested because there’s no consequence or weight to anything that is happening. And an integral part of the Batman mythos is missing.

This is important because many of these early stories rely on generic two-bit mafia criminals and generic crime stories. Criminals appear and vanish with little to no consequence because this world doesn't live and breathe. Anything Batman was doing in one story didn’t really carry over to the next. Then the Joker and Cat-Woman showed up.

The Joker represents a shift in Bat-Stories. Batman was lifting heavily from The Shadow and Doc Savage and so a lot of these stories as mentioned dealt with low-rent thugs/criminals with relatively petty aims. The Joker and Cat-Woman changed the game because they represent the antithesis of Batman, a love for villainy. The other aforementioned criminals do what they do because it’s a means of getting rich. The Joker on the other hand enjoys committing crimes and considers it an art.

The other game-charger with the Joker was that it was a truly UNIQUE villain that meant bringing him back held specific consequence. Meaning that the stories with the Joker couldn’t be told with any other villain, but the Joker. This led to Batman becoming invested in his dealings with the Joker on an emotional level. And all of sudden, the Batman stories became more interesting/engaging. In the second tale of the Joker, Bruce, upon discovering of Joker's escapes, thinks to himself, "He’s a very unusual man! He’s shrewd, subtle and above all ruthless!! Mark my works, the joker will return with a vengeance!” The invention of the Batman from a writing standpoint required extraordinary villans. The consequence of this development has been reiterated over and over. Heath Ledger’s Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” infamously says, “The Joker: [giggling] I don't, I don't want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no, NO! No. You... you... complete me.” Inversely, Joker completes Batman. And it’s fascinating going back now reading those early stories and seeing why.

Cat-Woman represent a similar dynamic like the Joker. It’s one of the few instances, that we see a little of Bruce’s humanity. Cat-woman is refer to as simply “The Cat” and is extremely talented cat-burglar. One of my issues as I mentioned earlier with these stories is that Bruce as a character has little depth because his world is so shallow. He’s written pretty flat-line “I am good. I bring justice.” The introduction of the Cat-Woman brought a much-needed wrinkle to this dynamic because Bruce is attracted to her and can’t bring himself to hand her over to the authorities.

Side-Note. It always bugs me the mischaracterization of the early Batman stories as being dark and brooding and that somehow Batman lost his way and Frank Miller restored that. It’s a misunderstanding of context. The first year of Batman was a discovery process. It grabbing whatever was floating in the pop-culture stratosphere and throwing it on the page. As mentioned, Batman was inspired by Doc Savage and the Shadow, so in those early stories they depicted a superhero going after two-bit criminals. However, death is treated so flippantly and morality is so clear: good/bad. When seen through that perspective, one realizes that the early stories have a tint of darkness, but they’re still pretty light-hearted. Which is why by issue 4 of Batman, the editors did a 180 and made it clear that Batman doesn’t kill people.

Following up on this train of thought, Batman’s attraction to Catwoman highlights this light-heartedness. Most of these stories are extremely tight and focus on crime is committed, Batman sets out to find the criminals, and then put them behind bars. Under this plot-structure, it makes the stories feel darker than they really are. It should be mention that there is a tinge of darkness to Batman’s world at this point because it deals with a very real-life criminal element. Criminals that steal, murder, and coerse for profit. And with no space to see Bruce’s reaction, it gives off an air of darkness. But then you get the Cat-Woman: this beautiful cat-burglar.

Bruce falls for Cat-woman and constantly at the end of each of the three tales that she is in will do something goofy like “Accidently” trip to let her get away. Then the comic will play with the dynamic that Robin is too young to understand love. This continues the trend that Bruce is a special human and he needs larger-than life counter parts not only in crime-fighting, but his love-life. And again, it reflect the worldview of the comic that this is all good fun.

My last observation is that surprisingly, Robin is the best part of the stories. The friendship between Bruce and Dick is pretty rad. It's very different than the more modern take on the two characters. There is no brooding Bruce and Dick chafing under his overbearing presence. In these stories, they have a big brother and little brother dynamic that’s very cute. Dick looks up to Bruce and Bruce relies on Dick to carry out his plans. I also love how self-sufficient Robin is in handling himself. Occasionally, it falls into... Robin bumbles and Batman saves the day, but most of the time, Batman is sending Robin out on secret missions and Robin kicks ass. Again, highlighting this is a light-hearted adventure book that’s not concerned with a grown man putting a little kid in harm’s way or that he’s letting criminals like the Cat-woman get away because she’s pretty.

It’s crazy how much of the stuff that is going to come (some of it like 30-40 years later like Batman’s relationship with Tahlia) is in the DNA that Bill Finger is laying out in these early stories. Check back for more of my observations!

The Great Batman Reading Project! by Eric Emma

I have always thought of myself as an omni-geek. I keep a toe in many different parts of geekdom, but never get too involved with any one aspect. In this regard, I haven’t followed comics regularly since high-school. Marv Wolfman, the writer of “Crisis of Infinite Earths”, thoughts on continuity ties into why I stopped following comics:

It's always been my belief that every generation needs the comics recreated for them. This happened by accident in the past: Comics were created in 1938 with Superman. About 25 years later, between 1956-1961, the Silver age was created with no direct regard for what happened before. About 25 years after that, I did Crisis with George Perez and that once again updated the DCU. And now, 25 years after Crisis the New 52 has been launched.

Comics need to be changed, they need to evolve, and they need to keep fresh in order to stay relevant. As for things like Watchmen, those are not part of the DCU. They exist in their own world. Those kind of stories are one-shot "novels" that are allowed to tell a great story and then it's over. I hope there will always be room for those so that not everything has to be part of one ever-sprawling continuity. Comics, which are simply a combination of story and art, should be able to tell any kind of story and not be hampered by constraints.

                I completely agree with Wolfman that comics need to constantly be over-turned and retold to be relevant. However, most of the time, the retellings never feel particularly fresh and you begin to cherry pick the stories that are truly worth reading. So having read a lot of the classic superhero tales, I moved on to other things. Then I heard about Grant Morrison and his epic six year Batman run.

                Grant Morrison is a legend in the comic book world for the uninitiated so he came to Batman with serious cred. When he came to Batman, he decided to do something pretty unprecedented, which was to take 75 years’ worth of Batman History and to make it all make sense. This to me, as a writer, sounds awesome. So I started doing research into his run. It quickly became clear that if I was going to appreciate this crazy run of Batman stories that I’d need to go back to the beginning of Batman and study up on Batman long history/many iterations. This to me became a great opportunity to study the evolution of one of the most popular and prevalent fictional characters of the 20th century.

Ironically, after Morrison finished his run on Batman and made sense of Batman’s long history, DC Comics completely restarted the entire universe and all their characters were rebooted. So Morrison run also serves as a nice send-off and wrap-up to Batman before DC went into a new direction.

I set to work creating a reading list of Batman essentials that would be needed to appreciate Morrison’s run as well as to study Batman and his evolution. While I was researching, I discovered that Paul Dini, acclaimed writer of Batman: The Animated Series, was writing "Detective Comics" at the same time as Morrison’s run on “Batman.” Dini's aim was to write self-contained Batman stories that had no real connection to Batman’s long history; this aim represent the antithesis of Morrison's run. So my project grew. I decided I would read the Dini run as well as the Morrison run. So discovering I had $500 worth of points on Amazon thru my credit card, I went to work ordering the multitude of books that would be needed to undertake this project.

As I read through all this material, I will continually post my thoughts/observations.

Below is the epic reading list:

Batman Background

COMIXOLOGY (ONLINE COMIC SERVICE):

52 #30, #47 

Batman #1-25, #159, #251, #291-294, 324, 408-413, #416

Trade Paper Backs:
DC Archives: Detective Comics Vol 1
Batman in the 50s
Batman in the 60s
Fourth World Volume 1 - 4
Batman Black Casebook
Batman: Tales of the Demon (70s Ra Ah Ghul Stories)
Batman Birth of the Demon (80s-90s One Shots)
Crisis on Infinite Earths
Death in the Family 
Batman Under The Cowl TPB
Batman: Dark Night, Dark City
Batman Year One
Batman Killing Joke
Batman: Arkham Asylum

Grant Morrison Run
Batman Black Glove Deluxe Edition
Batman RIP
Absolute Final Crisis
Time and the Batman
Absolute Batman and Robin
Batman: Return of Bruce Wayne (Deluxe Edition)

Absolute Batman Incorporated

Spoiler alert: During Morrison’s run he kills Batman off, which triggered a DC cross-over event called Battle for the Cowl so I ordered several books tying into this event:


Battle for the Cowl
Batman: Battle for the Cowl
Batman: Battle for the Cowl Companion
Azrael: Death's Dark Knight 
Batwoman: Elegy
Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? (Deluxe Edition)

Paul Dini Run

Batman: Detective
Batman: Death and the City 
Batman: The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul
Batman: Private Casebook
Batman: Heart of Hush
Batman: Streets of Gotham Vol 1
Batman: Streets of Gotham Vol 2
Batman: Streets of Gotham Vol 3: The House of Hush

SHOOT ME, ANTONIA PUT ON HIATUS! by Eric Emma

It happens. I wondered whether I should write a blog post about this, but I felt since I had told so many folks my excitement on the project, it warranted a post. I was informed on Friday that the folks that were going to put in the money for “Shoot Me, Antonia” had decided not to. The first question, I often get is why? It’s a complicated answer.

My father sent me an interesting e-mail since the first people that know everything that happens in my life are my parents. “I read through your script. I really liked it, but I think this script could either be great or lousy depending on how it’s shot.” And that to me summed up the big issue with the producers. I had written a script that would have taken faith in the team to pull off. 

My work, as usual, is challenging and complex.  There are no clear answers. No clear judgements. It operates like my own view of the world, much to the chagrin of family and friends, that there is not a “good/bad”, but simply, people doing what’s inherently best for them.  To be fair, the two shorts that I wrote push that more to the extreme than say "Klack and Roe" or "Cosmo Cat." 

In the end, I think everyone has to do what’s right for them. It does no one any good to have cross-purposes and while I spent plenty of work on the script, this will probably end for the best. What does this mean for “Shoot Me, Antonia”? I spoke with Pedro, my director on the project, and while we both believe in the script, it was written for these producers. To spend time and energy raising money for it would not feel quite right. However, I will be submitting it to short film script competitions and looking into grants. Also who knows, someone may come along and be interested in making it.

My biggest regret is not having a chance to see the wonderful team that was assembling around this project getting to work their magic. However, there are always other projects and I am sure another chance to work with these talented folks will arise!

-Eric