Friday, December 17, 2010

Batman: The Animated Series

I’ve been putting off writing this entry for almost a year.

This is what happens when I have nothing to write about. Step 1 of this process is struggling with that is appropriate to share or not share that’s going on. Step 2 is accepting that it’s too gross to reveal in the format of the blogosphere without turning away readers and step 3 is the Russian wave of communist resistance. Actually Step 3 is writin
g about Batman the Animated Series; which has nothing to do with communism; except in the sense that if you don’t think it’s the greatest thing that ever happened to superhero cartoon television I think you’re beyond help. Part of the reason I was putting it off is because I have real passion for the subject, not just in the ironic sense.

I think we’re off to a great start with this one. When I was six years old, I spent my school days waiting to come home and sit down in front of Cartoon Network and watch BATMAN: The ANIMATED SERIES. They made a point to emphasize the fact that it’s not just BATMAN…it’s the goddamn batman cartoon. This was the first time Batman had gotten his OWN show in the hand-drawn (or sweatshop collectively drawn) medium. Sure he had a facet of Super Powers in the 70’s and 80’s and these were partially collected on VHS volumes, but Batman the Animated Series singlehandedly solidified the relevance of many of Batman’s major characters we’re familiar with today and kept Batman in the mainstream as a valid cultural icon despite missteps such as the Schumacher films; which interestingly enough drew a lot of their inspiration and character selection FROM the animated series.

Genius-at-large, Bruce Timm, and physically large genius, Paul Dini were the men responsible for Batman: The Animated Series. The show was a branch off from the then-recent Burton films, 89’ and Batman Returns. Many of established bits of context from the movies were kept in the animated series, such as the Penguin being a mutant with long scraggly hair and the Joker having an alias of “Jack Napier”. Obviously Batman takes place in a multitude of timelines (I don’t know if anyone read Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader but it was basically the ultimate mindfuck explaining that Bat-Timelines are skewed and irrelevant) and Batman: the Animated Series sort of takes place in some twilight zone 90’s/1940’s reality. Some of the cars are old and yet the topical terrorist threats are very real. Television sets are sometimes in color and sometimes in black and white. It’s the perfect fantastical mix of Batman being put into a unique reality.

Something can be said for the storylines too. They didn't shy back from much violence, and in some cases, I think characters even DIED. Batman never broke his rule of killing though, but that doesn't mean there weren't some incidentals. There were some really touching moments of the series though such as Batman's relationship with this old woman named Leslie, who cared for him when his parents died. Another really great plotline for an episode was the idea that Batman was inspired by his own superhero as a child, the Grey Ghost. Now the Grey Ghost is just a washed up actor whose being blamed for a string of crimes that follow the plot of an old episode of his show. Of course Batman saves him and tells him "You were my hero as a kid". Never have villains been played up so emotionally either, like Clayface who most people hadn't even heard of prior to BTAS. The Two Face origin presented in BTAS is my favorite and you really feel bad for Harvey in his fall from grace.

Part of the main appeal of the series is the “dark deco” as the term is now called and the angular, simplistic yet totally understandable art style applied to the characters and buildings. Everything is in an exaggerated perspective; but it’s very realistic. While you know you’re watching a cartoon, everything from the facial expressions of beady-eyed civilian characters to the way their suits fit seems extremely relatable to the real world. It’s like if we had rotoscoped (an animation process of tracing over film) the actions and looks of real people using only straight lines. Hard to explain but basically, in a matter of words of less, Batman: The Animated Series taught me how to draw. I owe it one of the greatest workplace distraction tools of my entire life. In fact I don’t know how to draw anything BUT things in the style of BTAS…or more specifically TNBA.

Though admittedly not as iconic or well known as the Batman: Animated Series basic art, the show went through a stylistic revamp on the 4th season when it teamed up on Warner Brothers and Fox in the mornings with Superman for an adventure hour. This is referred to as THE NEW BATMAN ADVENTURES…or somehow TNBA. Or the new adventures of Batman and Robin? But Batgirl and Nightwing were introduced into the cast this season so it really wasn’t limited to just Robin. I don’t have a clue. I just call it THE NEW ADVENTURES and because it came out at the time I was honing my art style in grade school at the ripe age of 7, I draw everything as simplistically and minimalist as TNBA. The iconic Joker, as voiced to a note of perfection by Mark Hamill now had white dots for eyes set over black beads. Batman himself, ditched the black and yellow classic logo in favor of the one introduced in THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS by Frank Miller, with a plain black bat over a grey background. Everything was sleek and modernized, including the batmobile. In doing this, the dark deco was refined. Less detail, more sleek and it was now not just a serial cartoon, but a recognizable style of art.

BTAS/TNBA managed to permeate just about every aspect of my life at a young age. I was running around like a fool with a Batman cowl on the sidewalk at age 4 when the early episodes were on and a dog knocked me over and bit me. Rough times…but Batman was there for me. BTAS gave me the promise in my life that no matter what happened, I’d always have the comfort of the Caped Crusader and this rogues gallery to fall back on. Batman Underwear. Batman bubble Baths. Batman fruit snacks. I was, and am presently, unashamed of what became a lifelong obsession with a tortured man who lost his parents and took of crime-fighting. It makes perfect sense to me; and yet in writing this essay and trying to explain it, I’m unable to, much like Harley Quinn can’t really explain her attraction to the Joker.

Speaking of Harley Quinn, she’s proof of how important BTAS is to the comic book lexicon. She was introduced into the show in an episode entitled The Laughing Fish (the only episode to not feature a title card with a distinctive theme song) and become a valid comic book character and Joker-love interest/sidekick afterwards where she remains today having branched off with her own series. BTAS also resurrected characters who were thought to be absolute jokes and brought them into the spotlight and made them relevant again to the point where they would be featured in films. While Arnold played a pretty campy Mr. Freeze, the only reason he was in the movie to begin with was because of the chilling (lol get it?) emmy-winning (seriously. I didn’t make that up) episode Heart of Ice which features a tortured and broken spirited Victor Fries.

BTAS is really the pinnacle of my constitution as a “nerd”. It’s been there for me. An old standby…like grilled cheese. On days that I’ve been sick, BTAS has been there. On various occasions of Christmas and my birthday, BTAS has been there too. On the shelves of my collectibles and merch …it’s been there several times back and forth. I find that I almost instantly make friends with other fans of the show. One of my best friends I’ve met through a shared appreciation of The Dark Knight and the animated series. Another I met the first week of college when he expressed interest in the subject and we remain friends to this day. About a year ago at this time, I was rewatching the Joker-theme/and or Christmas themed episodes with special someone who has an appreciation for the show as well. Here we are a year later and she’s become more prominent in my life than I’d have guessed at the time. Batman brings people together. This is really the root of the fandom for many who grew up in the 90’s and who even grew up in the 80’s. It’s unquestionably solid material, and it continues to leave an impact on modern comics and batman films today. So there you have it. A love letter to BTAS/TNBA.


And now, I'll be posting some drawings I've done on photoshop that are combinations of the BTAS and New Adventures styles. I like the sleek refined look of TNBA...but I prefer the deco of BTAS. So I did my own.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My very own OFFICIAL HOLIDAY LIST!!! (I'm such a nerd)

I'll admit I've been saving up things to say for this one. It seems like I'm just brimming with my own unique facets of craziness which must be expressed in the form of holiday blogs.

LOOKIT ALL DIS CHRISTMAS SHIT! First it was white out MTN Dew…and now I’ve taken a trip to Dunkin Donuts yielding RED ASS donuts. I don’t know what it is that’s so good about red icing, but it has a certain chalky, tangible consistency that’s rarely found in icing of other colors. I appreciate it. I also appreciate how long and widespread this promotion has been. I’ve found these at MULTIPLE Dunkin locations now, being flanked by the gingerbread donut. The gingerbread flavoring in this one is convincing, though I think the caked on frosting helps. A note about frosting: The more dry and plastic in consistency it is, the better it is. I can’t stand it when shit gets on my hands and when it gets greasy. Even if I do hold my donuts with napkins, It’s just an unpleasant experience smattering your face in donut…grease. Makes you feel hot and sweaty and disgusting. I can’t even talk about this anymore. Let’s talk about something else disgusting…(as I’m coming down from a nauseating “Bolocoma”….
Mcrib is back. El Sabor or something the sign says en espanol. For only 4.50 (Tax included) you can now get the porklet sandwhich, fries, a drank and a FREE apple pie. I imagine, due to the hand printed out signs, that this is not a nation-wide promotion. Either way, I was feeling the Christmas cheer. It’s the season of getting. I don’t know when the Mcrib will actually be gone for good, but I shall not mourn it given the enormously long span of time in which it’s been available to us now. I think I’ve had about 4 of them in this time period though, and they’ve been getting increasingly less impressive.

We actually have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season…and a lot to look forward to. I’m going to now rattle off my official CHRISTMAS LIST! A top ten things I want or ten things I’m looking forward to that are pretty cool stories…bro. I guess this is really a nerdy/trendy Christmas list more than anything, but it’s basically the driving reasons to be alive during the winter months.

1. TRON! Coming out this week is the new super sleek astroglide movie TRON with Jeff Bridges. Hopefully it has nothing to do with the original TRON, which sucks a fat one. It looks like nonsensical fun with visual wonder.

2. THE TOWN on Blu Ray. So apparently, Ben Affleck’s new movie THE TOWN comes out this week on blu ray (to relatively little hype) with an EXTENDED cut that makes the movie half an hour longer. I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to see some of that. This was easily one of my favorite movies this year so I’m eager of course, to see more of it.

3. The Tron Soundtrack…by DAFT PUNK. While I already mentioned the hype for TRON itself, I don’t think I mentioned how damn cool the soundtrack is, which was made by the electronica band, DAFT PUNK. One of the tracks (Track 2, the grid) features Jeff Bridges talking over images of lightcycles and crazy shit flying through the computer screens.
4. BATMAN RETURNS-THE EXTENDED SOUNDTRACK. This is something that’s REALLY important to me, possibly more so than most of the things on this list purely because I’ve been waiting so long for it. The simple fact that I have it though, makes it a little harder to be excited for, like the TRON soundtrack. I’ve always believed this to be Danny Elfman’s best score so this is really a treat getting to hear alternate cues and extended tracks from the score that I’ve been familiarizing myself with since the mid 90’s on cassette tape.
5. The Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job Chrimbus Special. Oh I love Tim and Eric. Their sense of ironically lame humor is highly relevant to my interests. Needless to say, the Chrimbus special now on itunes) improves just about every time I watch the damn thing. It’s been a long, difficult summer and fall without Tim and Eric since the final season of the show ended. Hopefully the Chrimbus special will be a yearly thing and is a sign of more lolz to come.

6. Rocky Horror Picture Show Anniversary Blu Ray. Rocky Horror has been a struggle to get on DVD or blu ray of any kind, but now that it’s finally been transferred, and the transsexual movie is finally on shelves at Walmart and Target, it’s much more attainable. I haven’t broke down and bought this one yet, but hopefully someone gets the hint and picks it up for me…EITHER THAT OR I WASTE MY OWN MONEY ON IT.

7. Admiral Ackbar…the action figure. IT’S A TRAP! No…no it’s not. Instead it’s the best toy version of Admiral Ackbar yet. Highly worthy of purchase, especially at the relatively low exchange rate of currency for fishman of $7 at your local retailer. He comes in the traditional 1980’s style packaging as well to boot. But it’d be a crime to leave Admiral Ackbar in the box when there’s so many lolz to be made. I already have mine. WHERES YOURS?
8. Machete on Blu Ray. While this one is more of a New Years present, Machete complete with cooking lessons from Robert Rodriguez, behind the scenes, and all the extras you can shake a blade at, will be out January 3rd. You can bet your ass I’m excited for this release and I’ll be picking it up regardless of circumstance the day it comes out. Hopefully I’m not too broke from dumping money into all the rest of this stuff by the time it comes out.

9. TRUE GRIT. Coen Brothers. Bridges. Johnny Cash. Epic Little girl. Brolin. Damon. Amazing. That’s about all I have to say. We’re less than a week from GODDAMN TRUE GRIT, which is my most anticipated film of the entire year, and it comes out just a couple days before the year ends. What could possibly outrank this in terms of importance you ask?

10. GOOD WILL TOWARDS MEN. And a merry christmahanukwanzika to everyone. Are you JUDGING me for not being able to think of ten reasons to be alive? A joyous holiday season to you all. Eat shit and die.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Holy shitfuck a CHRISTMAS MIRACLE! The first of the season. It’s funny how fate vomits things in your lap at your lowest and most desperate moments of despair. I was literally just in class writing a meaningful blog post about BATMAN: The Animated Series, a subject which I care about in a non-ironic sense. I started to half-heartedly begin my blog by complaining that there’s a lack of topical subjects to write about. I mean after all, it’s the season of CVS raids and good tidings, and I don’t have any sort of holiday themed bullshit to rant about how great it is. Maybe I’m just not feeling it this year. Anyways, there I was taking a trip to the C store to find some kind of drink to placate me in my daily lack of nutrition. I still had some residual Reeses pieces in my backpack (you’re reading first hand an admission of my hedonistic existence) to tied me over from a physical comestible perspective. I found some Lime Crush, which you probably don’t remember me reviewing a couple months back when I was enjoying life. I got to the counter and presented it to the overlord of the C Store when I saw it. It was a white liquid. Blue label. Winter themed. Dues Ex Machina Mtn. Dew. Mountain Dew White Out.

I’m not a fan of the Dew. It’s too caffeinated and it looks like green piss to me. It took some cajones forcing myself to buy some new flavor of mountain dew just because the bottle stated it was indoctrinated as permanent product due to a “Dewmacratic process”. It promised me that sometime last year or so, thousands of people actually bothered to go online and cast a vote for this flavor of Mountain Dew because they believed it was that good of shit. Seriously…how fucking awesome can a food or beverage be that you have to bother to go online and document your experiences with eating it? Oh wait. I guess I’m kind of an exception. But I do it from an ironic perspective. Half of this blog is hyperbole. This my friends, is the first food product written up here that I can officially endorse. As soon as I had my first sip I had formed my decision.

Oh damn. That’s some good shit. Oh damn. I haven’t used this loving phrase in a long time for ANYTHING. Keep in mind this ain’t no colloquialism of mine and I don’t toss it around lightly. Oh Damn That’s some Good Shit (ODTSGS) means that the product I’m referring to is life-changing and mind numbingly fucking awesome. Not only did slurping down this white stuff ramp me up with energy but it also tasted great. Read that sentence back to yourself and see if it makes you giggle.

I like the artic. I like glacial properties. Blue, idealized, fictional summits of ice, where penguins from Mario slide down the tops of cheerful moonlit slopes and party in fountains of youth to Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz all night. Polar Bears are drowning themselves in Coca Cola like Bacchus. The maritime varmit I presently spoke of in my review of the KFC Double Down are emerging from waters gargling with purple frigorific Gatorade flavors. Remember, how people were wary of the turquoise Gatorade before it became racially accepted as part of the mainstream line of Gatorades? It was previously part of Gatorade FROST. I was on cloud 9, huffing Vicks vapo-rub in my bedroom with the air conditioner blasting dust mites into my face against my mom and the surgeon-general’s warnings slurping down some fuckin GATORADE FROST. Now I’m a man. And man has needs. And I need my ferocious thirst quenched in a manly manner with Artic themed shit whored out all over the bottle. Mountain Dew White Out. I shall buy it again and again. Starting tomorrow.
And if you still remain unconvinced, that is a picture of me unable to pull the bottle off my fucking mouth IN journalism class where we are NOT allowed to have food, as so decreed by a sign on the door in fear of spillage on precious equipment that never works up to modern technological standards.