A few weeks ago, Matt Wilson and I watched Dick Tracy, the 1990 adaptation of the classic comic strip, directed, produced by and starring Warren Beatty. It's a pretty interesting movie, something that Beatty had wanted to do since the '70s that was clearly styled as a reaction to the success of Batman '89, a strange and ambitious project with a whole lot of fascinating flaws. But what's even stranger is the half-hour special that aired 18 years later, where Beatty reprized his role so that he could be interviewed, in character, by Leonard Maltin.
Q: How would you have written the Funky/Dick crossover? -- @damnyouwillis
A: You know, Dave, it's been a long time since I've been as mad at a comic as I was at the soggy lump of anticlimax that was the Funky Winkerbean/Dick Tracy crossover last month. I mean, I'd call it a disaster, but disasters are usually exciting and have consequences. Funky/Dick was not, and did not.
Over the past 40 years, Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean has transitioned from a gag-a-day comic strip about a high school to an ongoing chronicle of pure, abject misery. Thanks to the commentary on Josh Fruhlinger’s Comics Curmudgeon, I am now completely obsessed with it, which is why I spend a little time every month rounding up its finest examples of crushing despair.
I have been writing this column for four and a half years now, and I can tell you with absolutely no uncertainty that I have never been as angry with Funky Winkerbean as I am right now. I mean, don't get me wrong, I've been mad at this thing before, but never before has it been the pure, incandescent rage of betrayal at declaring the crossover of the year, only to have it stink up the joint like a bucket of dead fish. But I think I'm getting ahead of myself. Fortunately, we've got all the usual misery to take my mind off it.
Friends and neighbors, it is truly a blessed day: Funky/Dick is finally here.
A few months back, we found an announcement buried in an article in Variety, of all places, that revealed plans for ComicsAlliance's two favorite comic strips, Funky Winkerbean and Dick Tracy, to cross over at the start of the year. Now, the day has come, and there is a very good chance that Les Moore will either be violently murdered or framed for murder. If I was a betting man, I'd put money on the latter, but in my heart, I know I'm hoping for the former.
Q: How did Dick Tracy solve the case of Li'l Orphan Annie's disappearance and was it appropriately insane? -- @willwise3
A: Oh Will. Will, Will, Will. I want to take a moment to thank you for letting me talk about what is unquestionably the single greatest crossover of the year. For those of you who may have missed it, the Little Orphan Annie comic strip ended a while back with what has to be the most harrowing cliffhanger to ever hit the newspaper page. After eighty years of adventures, Annie went out in the middle of a story where she'd been kidnapped by an actual war criminal called the Butcher of the Balkans, locked up on a boat bound for an unknown shore, with Daddy Warbucks wondering if he would ever see his beloved daughter again. Seriously, that was the last strip, and Annie's final fate until it was announced that Dick Tracy would step up and solve the case last summer.
As for whether or not that story was "insane," well, let me put it this way: It involves SUPER-POWERED MOON PEOPLE, ATOMIC WEAPONS, AND A TIME MACHINE.
For some reason, Variety, the Hollywood newspaper known mainly for a tendency to go hard on pun headlines, did a piece today on the endless march of depression that is Funky Winkerbean and how the creeping despair that infests every inch of Westview is actually something of a blessing for the floundering newspaper comics page. It's an interesting take on a brand of misery that we've become pretty familiar with over the years here at ComicsAlliance, but buried towards the end of the article is one of the most exciting announcements I've seen all year:
"In January, Funky characters are slated to meet Dick Tracy, who is published by a different syndicate, the result of a meeting with Dick Tracy artist Joe Staton at a comics convention."
Please, Santa Claus, if you're listening, let this be a story about Dick Tracy being called in to investigate the murder of Les Moore.
In the world of superhero comics, it's pretty safe to say that readers have become pretty well-accustomed to crossovers. In the big shared universes at Marvel and DC Comics, characters show up regularly in each other's books all the time, and even if they're keeping to themselves, there's always the big, universe-spanning event comics that are rolling out like clockwork to bundle them all together for your reading enjoyment -- or for your reading, at least.
In the world of newspaper strips, however, that sort of thing is much more rare. Sure, you occasionally get stuff like Tom Batiuk arranging for a shockingly boring cross-time comic book sale in Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean, but even that's pretty small and confined to one character.
As a result, it's always notable when the newspaper characters start jumping into each other's strips. Especially when it's two-fisted cop Dick Tracy gearing up to rescue Little Orphan Annie from the clutches of a murdering terrorist known only as "The Butcher of the Balkans," a thing that is actually happening iny our newspaper right now.
Back before the VHS tape made it possible to watch the movies you wanted when you wanted (as long as Blockbuster had a copy in stock), movie novelizations and comic book adaptations of films were some of the only options fans had when it came to reliving a movie they wanted on-demand. While the majority of these were rightly viewed as cash-ins that let comics companies float on someone else's success, there were the occasional pieces of work that proved to be something more. For example, Marvel's off-model, six-part Star Wars adaptation proved to be so popular in the summer of 1977 that many credit it for helping the company pull out of a fiscal free-fall, even as it acted as a bog-standard 1970s Marvel book in a lot of ways.
Now that we can watch Magic Mike on our phones any time we want, comic adaptations can seem like a quaint throwback. However, some of them are legitimate pieces of comic history in their own right, providing an alternate look at our favorite films even as they gave a few comic creators the chance to play with the medium in a new way. In this piece, we take a look at five of them, including long lost work by Jack Kirby, Jim Steranko, Walt Simonson, Kyle Baker and Bill Sienkiewicz and more.
If you've been keeping up with Superman lately, then you've seen writer Chris Roberson make a few references to the idea that Superman himself is a comic book reader. To be fair, I don't think we've ever seen Clark Kent duck out of the Daily Planet on Wednesday to get the new books, but the idea of Superman as a fan of sequential art isn't a new one. In fact, it goes all the way back
News broke late last week that the film rights to the classic Dick Tracy comic strip character will be retained by actor and filmmaker Warren Beatty, thanks to a court ruling in a long-running legal battle with the copyright owner Tribune, Inc. The plaintiff's argument was that Beatty hadn't fulfilled contractual obligations to retain the Dick Tracy film rights, but a judge decided he had. And that was that.
While worth noting, this development isn't particularly exciting, especially given the fact that it's been over