My two views of Adam West’s Batman

I was twelve when my dad bought our first color TV, thus making me take Adam West’s Batman TV show even more seriously. I took it straight. I was a smart kid, but I had little sense of campy.

Fast forward to now, the day after Adam West passed, and a little light went out in the world. I still revel in the adventures and excitement of that show. But I now know that Adam West was the Buster Keaton of superhero actors. His voice was an orchestra of heroism and good, brave and bold, strong as steel, rich as Prolific Oven chocolate mocha cake, and brimming with deadpan humor. The straighter the face, the greater the camp.

It is a crime to fanboys that Adam had no cameo in the Tim Burton Batman movie. Furthermore, the Watchmen movie should have been a two parter, and the role of the original Nite Owl should have been expanded and played by Adam West. I wish I had met you, Adam. (I did meet Julie Newmar at a comic con. I bought an 8×10 glossy. But I was too tongue-tied to say anything. Julie still moved and sounded like Catwoman, MRROW!)

P.S. I perfectly understood the subversive humor of George of the Jungle, Superchicken, and Tom Slick. But those were cartoons.

P.P.S. Super Holly Hansson would have loved to meet Adam West. She would have gone all fangirl and super-kissed him.

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His Biggest Fan!

Holly and Angry BatmanI have written the 7th draft of a short story that I will submit to the California Writers Club, Redwood Branch for their Fan Fiction contest. A story I have always wanted to write: Super Holly is zapped into the DC Universe and meets her first big crush: Batman. I had to write tight to stuff it into 1500 words. Printing it a few times and crossing out and editing with pencil/pen helped me cut it down to size. Tomorrow I send it in, after I read it aloud to find last edits.

P.S. I had not expected the Joker to take over the villain role. He did. He can be pushy.

Angry Batman art by Chloe Dalquist of theangrybatman.tumblr.com.

To Batman v Superman: Hire a writer!

batman grimly faces supermanWhy was Ben Affleck’s Batman forced to say this stupid line about Superman?

He has the power to wipe out the entire human race and if we believe there is even a one percent chance that he is our enemy, we have to take it as an absolute certainty.

Batman can do math. On the Justice League, he is called, “The Smart One.” He is a detective. He would detect who is guilty, who is innocent, and who does and does not need a Bat-punch in the mush. Read The Dark Knight Returns, there are better ways to give me a Bats-vs-Supes smackdown (and a serious fanboy orgasm!) than that one-percenter line. It is lazy writing, and it sucks. Even an NPR critic did a double-take at that.

That line reminds me of an old joke from Steve Landesberg (Dietrich from Barney Miller). Steve was doing the character of a Deep South sheriff. His accent was perfect. (The quote below is from my memory, so is not likely exact. Except for the punchline.)

“Yep, ah’ve been at this job a long time, I can tell just by lookin’ at someone if they’re gonna do a crime. Just yesterday, I saw a guy, and just by lookin’ at him, I know he wuz gonna kill someone.”

(Perfectly timed comedic pause.)

“So I shot him.” (Audience laughter.) “He ain’t gonna kill nobody now!”

Batman is smarter than that sheriff. DC Comics, when you make your next movie, please hire a writer.

Superheroine defined by superhero, and my sexist spell checker

I have attended a couple of comic/sci-fi con panels about superheroines. The ladies on the panels point out how so many superheroines are defined in their relationship to superheroes.

  • Ant-Man and the Wasp. They both shrink. She stings, he grows. Her powers come from his technology.
  • Superman and Supergirl. She used to be his secret weapon. Her powers come from his planet’s DNA.
  • Batman and Batgirl. Same bat-costume, same bat-utility belt, lots less bat-grittiness.
  • Hulk and She-Hulk. Her powers came from his blood. Except she is also a lawyer, a superpower if there ever was one.

My characters Super Holly and Cal the Intellectual? He is largely defined by her. (In fact, I seem to use Cal to show Holly’s flaws and quirks.) She’s Superman with anger issues, he is Batman with Mr. Spock’s mind. In my early drafts, Cal was always by Holly’s side, always guiding and teaching. It took my putting some Roger Ebert into Cal for him to become more independent. Cal really needed a day job. In my latest story, I loved putting movie references into his internal dialog.

P.S. My sexist spellchecker wants to turn “superheroine” into “super heroine.” But it leaves “superhero” alone.

P.P.S. I went to APE comic con in San Jose this weekend. Enjoyed it. Bought stuff. Met people I know and like again. Met some new people. Should give me more to blog about.

Old sci-fi and the test of time.

I recently spent a week at my cousin’s, house and doggie sitting. My cousin has cut the TV cable, but not the internet cable. So while I wrote and worked, I binged-watched My Favorite Martian on Hulu. Also, last year, I was at a LitQuake event in Palo Alto, and I was talking with a couple guys about old TV shows. One guy talked about these old sci-fi shows, and how wonderful they were, but his shining example was Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. I joked about how it was not a good show. He got pretty huffy about that.

So I got to thinking about which old sci-fi television withstand the test of time. Old like within or close to the black and white era of TV.

THE GOOD:

My Favorite Martian. Smart and sharp and silly humor, and perfect performances from Bill Bixby and Ray Walston. Ray is perfect as the super-intellectual martian, Bill every bit as perfect as the goofy young sidekick. Listen to them deliver snappy dialog and watch their slapstick stunts, and you will know why they kept getting work for the rest of their lives.

Lost in Space. It would not have lasted so long in reruns if not for Jonathan Harris as that most hammy of villains, Doctor Smith. Oh, the pain, the pain, I mean the joy, the joy, the utter rapture of watching an old vaudevillian-type pro at work.

The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. To borrow from Comic Book Guy: Best anthology shows EVER!

THE CHEATING.

Batman (Adam West) was always in color, but it came in right at the end of black and white TV. Adam West GETS IT. Perfect straight-face performance for a witty super spoof. And the villains! A parade of high calibre Hollywood talent: Vincent Price, Frank Goshen, Cliff Robertson, Julie Newmar (DEEPEST SIGH!!!), and on and on, that show attracted talent like ants to a sugary picnic.

Wonder Woman. Yes, this was always in color as well, but I HAVE to mention it. The first season had tasty, nasty, love-to-hate Nazi villains. When Wonder Woman was brought into the present later on, the stories and the villains dried out and the writing could get downright painful. But Lynda Carter brought such GLEE to the role! She did pretty big stunts too, like twenty foot jumps, lifting cars, and running while looking gorgeous but not girly-goofy. There are a few actors who wink at the viewer and say via actor telepathy, Hey, it is fun up here, and if you watch, I’ll send some of that fun your way! Lynda Carter did that every time she strode onto the screen. Oh, did I mention she looked great in the costume, and that is an achievement? TV superhero costumes did not always work well back then!

THE BAD.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. An endless line of white males, followed by white males, followed by more white males. Can you say bleached sausage fest? And the writing? Aliens from another planet learn American English on the theory that sound never dies. NO, human voices cannot travel millions of miles through hard vacuum! (The writers were too dumb to have the aliens listen to our radio and TV broadcasts.) Then there was the bad guy backing up while holding the crew at gunpoint, and a good guy says one of the worst lines in TV history: “Don’t go in that corridor, it’s full of plankton!” Now, I want SO BAD for Plankton from Spongebob Squarepants to be in that corridor and say, “Yes, come in here and I shall RULE THE KRUSTY KRAB, HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!” But what was in the corridor? A bunch of quivering rubber tentacles that the bad guy backs into without even glancing over his shoulder. Do all villains have stiff necks? I now know why Harlan Ellison tried to kick one of those executives in the face.

The Time Tunnel. James Darren was wasted, instead catch him in Star Trek Deep Space 9 as the holographic Vegas singer Vic Fontaine, your ears will thank you forever. Anyway. The plot done over and over every single week is two time travelers go to different time periods, usually to great moments in history. Can you imagine the lust of those old fat white male TV executives? “Yeah, lissen to dis, it’s an hour show, but we only gotta shoot half of dat, cuz dah rest can be old stock movie footage of Vikings and knights and cowboys and dinosaurs! And a giant beehive, cuz bees was giant in duh dinosaur days. Ooo, duh money we’ll save! Haw haw haw!” (With each “haw,” balloon-bloated steak-stuffed bellies bounce and ripple.) And did you know that in the future and on all alien worlds, everyone is painted silver?

Land of the Giants. Also in color, but too awful not to mention. A cheap clone of Lost in Space. Without Jonathan Harris, it falls flatter than a Swedish pancake. (Well, he did show up as the Pied Piper, and only he—no one else—could do that without looking ridiculous.) The heroes were handsome and dull, the stories range from slightly watchable to rubbing a cheese grater on your frontal lobes. The kid on that show gives the kid in Star Wars 1 a run for his money on the that-dog-won’t-hunt scale. Will Mumy he ain’t.

Notice a pattern here? Irwin Allen shows. To borrow a line from someone who wrote about one really bad story in the sad puppies Hugo controversy, Irwin made shows that are exactly like what people who never watch sci-fi think sci-fi is like.

THE AIMLESS. (I formerly said “THE UGLY, and doing that to Julie Newmar is quite an accomplishment!” But I changed my mind. Or rather, Julie changed it.)

My Living Doll, take 2. I watched a few other shows on Hulu. And Julie Newmar was funny. She played her dancer’s body and smooth voice like musical instruments. And she played a tune to get laughs. The flourish of her arms when she played classic piano (episode where she was entered in a beauty contest, and Julie knew how to play classic piano, so it could have been her belting out that tune). Her in a courtroom hurtling her amazon long legs over that little wall between spectators and the judge and jury, instead of using the silly little door. Her throwing a pseudo tantrum when purposely missing the eight ball in the seventh pocket and breaking the pool cue. Her intense face when reciting long tech exposition. Her goofy happiness when her robot character is learning something new. So I did enjoy her performance. A lot. Problem was that no one else on the show held much of a candle to her. The lead actor was just a tad this side of bland, his goofy guy friend (or relative, whatever) was supposed to be funny, but just came off as selfish and goofy sidekicks MUST have a redeeming virtue! I think that when I watched the pilot, I was irked that Julie was not front and center. Julie was great in post-pilot episodes, but the show was cancelled in the first season. That freed Julie to play Catwoman, where she had a great guy to play off of: Adam West. Ah, the campy fireworks!

My Living Doll, take 1. (I leave this paragraph here to show that I can change my mind when I am mistaken. The first episode was awful, but the show got better.) Even Julie Newmar, whose Catwoman in the Adam West Batman helped me get through puberty, could not save this. (Yeah, I’m that old, sue me.) My cousin’s Hulu cued up the pilot of My Living Doll after an episode of My Favorite Martian. I was used to sharp witty LOL dialog, then I got every single line being about how hot Julie the robot is. After the twentieth line about ogling Julie, it gets really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really tedious. To steal a line from my friend Valerie Frankel, that is pretty much the whole plot. Julie is not given much to work with, you’d think writing robot dialog would not be hard. Look at Julie’s energetic sexy slinky purring and FUNNY performance as Catwoman, and then watch this, and then try not to claw out your eyeballs with a fork. You just TRY not to do that!

P.S. ONE MORE THING! To the gentleman (I use the word loosely) from a year ago who thinks Irwin Allen made great TV, and who got hot and huffy when I did not bow and WORSHIP your cheesy boring whiter-than-bleached-vanilla-ice-cream rubber-tentacled creature-from-the-bottom-of-the-slush-pile pseudo-sci-fi, your taste in sci-fi SUCKS. Speaking as a geek and a nerd who has watched and loved and hated over half a century of sci-fi and cartoons and comic books, who has dined upon plenty of Asimov and Clarke and Niven and Brown and Ellison and Stan Lee and Peter David and J. Michael Straczynski, who for over a decade has seriously studied writing AND has been seriously writing AND has performed my writing at open mics, who has had my writing critiqued by dozens of other writers and a few professional editors, who has critiqued other writers for years to often grateful results, and thus who earned every scrap of my considerable sci-fi fanboy cred, I am telling you: