Michael Uslan's name might not be known to most comic book fans, but he is probably one of the most important figures in the cinematic history of superheroes. He obtained the film rights to Batman in the late 1970s, spent ten years fighting to bring a project to fruition, and since the completion of Batman '89 twenty-five years ago has been credited as producer or executive producer on every major cinematic Bat-project since (including Batman: The Animated Series, Mask Of The Phantasm, the Christopher Nolan trilogy of Dark Knight blockbusters, and the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice film). He's a life-long comic fan, a pop-cultural historian, a conversationalist, and an author (his memoir, The Boy Who Loved Batman, is an essential read for anyone interested in comics and comic-influenced media).
As the man largely responsible for Batman '89 existing at all, there's no person better suited to tell not just the story of the film's production, but the long and winding path the project had taken over the preceding decade on its way to success. But besides the unusual story behind Uslan's relationship with the Dark Knight on film, the producer told us about his broader goals for Batman and comic books in general, which went far beyond simply making a successful motion picture.
The X-Men did not have an openly LGBT team-member for almost their first forty years of publication. This was primarily an egregious act of self-censorship on Marvel's part, but it may actually have helped strengthen mutants as a queer metaphor. Where LGBT people couldn't be part of the X-Men's text, the experiences of LGBT people came to dominate the X-Men's subtext.
In the third of three essays examining the parallels between fictional mutants and real life LGBT people, I'll look at how the mutations themselves -- and the identity struggles of many X-Men characters -- served to underline the essential queerness of mutants.
On the occasion of the film’s 25th anniversary, ComicsAlliance represents our in-depth commentary and review of Tim Burton’s Batman ’89, the father of modern superhero cinema. Originally published in 2011 as part of our exhaustive Cinematic Batmanology series (which also included a massive five-part analysis of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight), this piece by Chris Sims and David Uzumeri strips the fan favorite Batman ’89 down to the bone to get at what works, what doesn’t work, and what’s just plain crazy about Burton’s enduringly influential film.
Changing the racial identity of characters has become a contentious issue amongst fans of superhero comics and their adaptations in other media. The awful practices of casting white actors to play people of color, or of turning previously non-white characters into white characters, is all too common in movie adaptations of books, cartoons, TV shows, or even real life stories -- but rather surprisingly, superhero comics and their adaptations have mostly avoided this problem.
In comics, the controversy takes a different direction. Several white characters have become non-white, mostly in movies, and sometimes in reboots. Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm in the new Fantastic Four; Helena Bertinelli aka the Huntress in the New 52; Nick Fury in the Ultimate Comics line and on screen. These are changes that agitate some readers -- but realistically, the changes don't go far enough. Superhero comics have a cultural bias towards white characters that has everything to do with their institutional history and nothing to do with what makes sense to the stories.
On the occasion of the film's 25th anniversary, ComicsAlliance represents our in-depth commentary and review of Tim Burton's Batman '89, the father of modern superhero cinema. Originally published in 2011 as part of our exhaustive Cinematic Batmanology series (which also included a massive five-part analysis of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight), this piece by Chris Sims and David Uzumeri strips the fan favorite Batman '89 down to the bone to get at what works, what doesn't work, and what's just plain crazy about Burton's enduringly influential film.
I'm not a big fan of Tim Burton's 1989 Batman movie, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this week, but there's definitely one thing that I think it did right. Burton's Gotham City, redesigned for the screen by Anton Furst, is absolutely beautiful. The Academy Award-winning production art direction is stylish, terrifying, visually engaging and arresting on a level that the rest of the movie has a hard time living up to, creating a world that looks like Batman could exist there.
It's also one of the movie's lasting influences on the world of the comics. Ever since Furst and Burton unveiled their version as a backdrop for the Joker blasting Prince from a boombox while trashing an art museum and Batman blowing up a chemical plant with his remote-control car, Gotham has adhered to their vision of the city, transforming from the bustling stand-in for New York that it was before and becoming its own unmistakable entity. And in true comic book fashion, the comics accomplished this by blowing everything up and starting over.
Launched in late 1988 by the B.D. Fox agency -– who had also handled the campaigns for E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, the one true Robocop movie, and mankind’s crowning cinematic achievement, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure – with a poster designed by the film’s production designer Anton Furst, the Batman campaign is a classic example of doing more with less. It’s sexy, sleek, mysterious and new. It’s regarded as one of the best movie campaigns ever, and for good reason. On the occasion of the film's 25th anniversary, let’s talk about why the campaign was so good.
Mutants as a metaphor for real minority groups are an awkward fit for a number of reasons. First of all, mutants are actually dangerous. Second, a lot of mutants have good cause to reject their identity. Third, and perhaps crucially, mutants don't have a shared culture like real minority groups.
Of course, people have said all of those things about LGBT people as well. In the second of three Pride Month essays exploring mutants as a metaphor for queer identity, I'll look at how mutants are actually a perfect metaphor for the sort of dangerous myths used to marginalize LGBT people.
“The best moments in reading,” Alan Bennett writes in The History Boys, “are when you come across something -- a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things -- which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.”
These “hands” can be found in any form of literature, from novels to poetry to journalism to, yes, comic books. One such hand reaches forth from the pages of X-Men Legacy, published by Marvel and written by Simon Spurrier. Instead of being an action-packed affair, this book was a character study; a very literal glimpse into the mind of a young man searching for his place in both the mutant world and the world at large.
Bee and Puppycat is really, really cute. It is also funny, bizarre, and occasionally wistful. Above all though, it is cute: there’s the pastel palette, the fat pink bows on Bee’s shoes, the warm roundness of its characters, literally everything about Puppycat. Its absurdism is soft and its softness is absurd -- “I got fired today,” Bee intones flatly, the rain spattering her cat-faced pinafore dress. She’s a dumpster-diving Sanrio character, Strawberry Shortcake late for her appointment at the temp agency. The beginnings of a plot prod gently at her from time to time, but never with anything like urgency -- two issues into its run, Boom! Studios' Bee and Puppycat comic has meditated on strawberry donuts, embarrassing pajamas, and platform shoes, but not much else. Creator Natasha Allegri (along with collaborators Madeleine Flores and Garrett Jackson) would rather devote three pages to QR-coded music boxes than set about untangling Puppycat’s origins or the nature of their magical, mysterious employer.
In these qualities, Bee and Puppycat is right in line with Adventure Time, Steven Universe, and Bravest Warriors, its closest brethren in tone and form. Beyond the creator overlap between the four franchises and the fact that all of them now span both animation and comics, they’re all content to hunker down in that pocket of the zeitgeist that brings together childhood nostalgia and bizarre Internet-age humor, where atmosphere reigns over plot.
But Bee and Puppycat stands out among them, and marks a sea change in comics -- particularly in how franchises are formed, what is considered marketable, and what demographics are seen as worthy of being catered to. In its weird, witty way, I believe that Bee and Puppycat emblematizes the future of this industry.
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