Today Veronica and I are doing a panel together called DRAWING CHARACTERS along with several other amazing comic creators-- it's at 4pm in Room 23ABC so come on by if you're at the show!
1943 Columbia Pictures
Directed by Lambert Hillyer
Lewis Wilson, Douglas Croft, Shirley Patterson, William Austin, Gus Glassmire, J. Carrol Naish
15 Chapters. Released July 20th, 1943
Running 15 weeks and starting late July this meant Batman was on the screen in its various theaters well into the Halloween season of 1943.
Millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne (Lewis Wilson) and his young ward Dick Grayson (Douglas Croft) are secretly the crime fighting duo Batman and Robin. Their secret is known only by their faithful butler Alfred (William Austin) and apparently the US Government who has employed Wayne as a secret agent who are assigned to bring down a fifth column Axis Powers spy ring led by the insidious Japanese Prince Dr. Tito Daka (J. Carrol Naish).
Daka kidnaps Martin Warren (Gus Glassmire), who happens to be the uncle of Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend Linda Page (Shirley Patterson), he transforms him into one of his mindless zombie slaves after his refusal to aid his subversive fifth column activities.
Missing from the serial is Police Commissioner Gordon who is replaced by the surly Captain Arnold who seems both to admire Batman’s results as he vows to hunt the vigilante down and capture him.
Over the course of fifteen chapters Batman and Robin interfere with Daka’s plans and try to help Linda find her missing Uncle Warren.
Complete with rayguns, alligator pits and the aforementioned zombies THE BATMAN is one of Columbia’s best serial efforts.
Wilson was 23 when he was contracted to play Batman making him not only the first actor to assume the role but the youngest to date. He brings a good natured charm to the character and incorporates elements of Zorro’s Don Diego disguise complete with foppish and lazy attitudes to keep anyone from suspecting his true identity. His clipped New England Accent adds a great deal to his performance. Wilson was a 1939 graduate of the prestigious Worcester Academy. His background was on Broadway and Batman was one of his first films and is his first lead role. His son is currently the producer of the James Bond series.
Croft at 14 or 16 years old (depending on the source) is also the youngest actor to play Robin the Boy Wonder and brings a charm to the role that makes him a nice complement to Wilson’s more serious Batman. Croft had an extensive acting background in film including playing the young James Cagney in YANKEE DOODLE DANDY.
Shirley Patterson brings sincerity of emotion to the role of Linda Page who seems to genuinely care about the other characters and the dire situations they all find themselves in. Patterson was a contract player for Columbia and was fresh off filming with The Three Stooges when she did BATMAN. She would go on to star in such films as IT THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE.
William Austin is so good as Alfred the Butler that his physical appearance as well as his slightly bumbling efforts were adopted by the comic book character after this serial was released. Alfred is a quasi third member of the Batman team and offers mixed results when he’s called in to help with a level of humor that never gets obnoxious. A comedy relief character who adds just the right amount of laughs.
The serial is often criticized for not having a Batmobile, but since the character was only four years old at the time of filming we need look only to the very earliest Batmobile’s to see that Batman was often driving a regular roadster.
Equally unfair are the complaints about the costumes, while its true some of the angles are less than flattering, in some shots it looks spot on and offers a good representation of the suit worn in the comic books of the time.
The devil ears offer a slightly sinister look to the cowl which works. The utility belt, although it's used only to hold his rope, is still more than just a standard belt. A lot of the criticism of its lack of equipment is seen through the prism of the Adam West TV show where he seemed to pull whatever he needed out of that belt on a weekly basis. The show was still 23 years away.
Movie serials were shown weekly often at Matinees as many of them were designed for kiddie shows, but at this period of the genre they were sometimes shown in first run theaters and the fact that THE BATMAN premiered on July 20, 1943 (which was a Tuesday) leads us to believe that the serial was treated as an A-Production, at least by serial standards.
When the serial was first announced the villain of the series was set to be The Joker and this is backed up by early posters for it.
That’s clearly The Joker that Batman is punching out and when you look at Daka’s costume and makeup it’s not hard to imagine the connection to The Joker. National Comics objected to their villain being a spy for the Axis powers so he was changed to the Japanese spy.
Add to it that Daka’s secret headquarters is set deep within a carnival sideshow and you have further evidence to back this theory up.
One of the things that strikes me about halfway through the first episode is the appearance of a paperboy who offers Bruce Wayne a newspaper detailing Batman’s latest adventure.
The camera is strangely focused on the Paperboy as he approaches and there’s something to his swagger that makes him stand out.
Is this possibly a cameo by Batman creator Bob Kane?
Here’s a screen shot of the paperboy as he walks away set beside one of Kane at the time. Looks like it very well could be.
Why would this not be noted anywhere else? It’s a tough question to answer especially if one knows the level of Bob Kane’s ego, which is to say it’s doubtful he’d have forgotten such a monumental screen appearance— surely the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences must have considered a special Cameo Oscar? Certainly Kane would think so.
There’s just something about the Newsboy scene that makes me think it is Kane. In his autobiography he notes that he was in Los Angeles while they filmed the serial, although his memory is faulty as he states the car used was a simple Mercury (which was used in the second serial in 1949). Kane also states he first met Marilyn Monroe at this time which is highly unlikely but right in line for the legend of Kane’s bravado.
It seems more likely to me that Kane simply forgot his cameo, as hard as that is to believe, because he sure looks and acts like Kane to me. If its not Kane then it's clearly some other VIP such as a screenwriter or copy boy who's hamming up his big scene.
The serial is notable not only for being the first DC Comics character to make it to the big screen and for remaking Alfred into more of a comic foil, but also as the source that introduced The Bat Cave, although in the serial its called the slightly more awkward "The Bat's Cave" as Batman's hidden headquarters. In the comics up to this point Batman used a barn behind Wayne Manor. The serial also introduced the grandfather clock in Wayne's Study which leads to the secret staircase down to the cave (the poles wouldn't come along until 1966).
In all, THE BATMAN is a fine serial from Columbia Pictures and ranks among its top ten both in terms of box office and critical reception.
So congratulations on your screen debut 75 years ago today!
Today we'll be part of a panel at the nearby San Diego Central Library discussing how Graphic Novels and Comics Programs can benefit libraries--
10:00 am, Graphic Novel Activities for Your Library or Bookstore—Learn new ways to promote graphic novel literacy in your workplace with exciting activities and field-tested methods. From teaching comics workshops to activities based around specific graphic novels, this panel features Liniers (Good Night, Planet), Ivy Noelle Weir and Christina “Steenz” Stewart (Archival Quality), and Veronica and Andy Fish (The Wendy Project, Gumby). Moderated by Robin Brenner (teen librarian, Public Library of Brookline).
We'll have to cut out early because we have to be back on the convention floor in the event rooms for Spotlight on Veronica Fish-- moderated by me at 11:30am.
If you're at the show come on by!
Today we'll be doing some press for BLACKWOOD and we'll be signing at the Dark Horse Booth from 2:00 - 2:45pm at the Dark Horse Comics Booth #2615-- DH has a limited edition Blackwood mini poster available for the first 100 people so come on by and get it signed by us as well as Blackwood #1 and #2 both of which are on sale now.
No pics kids, sorry I’m on a mobile device.
We caught a flight out of Boston at 7am— and if you think that traffic around Logan at 530am isn’t like Thanksgiving weekend you’d be wrong. We sat in bumper to bumper traffic for a good 30 minutes before the Logan Express Shuttle dropped us off at Terminal C and then TSA was insane, but it moved quickly.
Our flight on JetBlue was stellar- while we weren’t in first class we were in row 6 which had enormous leg room and we could chat with the special kids up in the First Class cabin. The flight was direct and after about five hours we touched down in San Diego.
We were met at the airport by a great convention volunteer named Jeff who had relocated out here about 10 years ago from the East Coast and the great weather had him never looking back. Speaking of the weather, it was in the mid 80s and slightly humid, but no ridiculously so like it was back home the last few days.
Jeff got us over to our hotel which is the beautiful Marriot Marquis on the Bay and despite it being only 11 and check in time was 4pm Becky from the Convention got us checked in so that we could get freshened up from our flight.
Number Two son brought our luggage over and we were unpacked and ready to go in a few minutes. I had brought him his new Apple Watch so we spent a few minutes getting that set up then the three of us headed over on the Trolley to Old Town which is a touristy stop but the old west architecture and the Mexican folk art was too big a lure not to go. We at at FRED’S which was out of this world— highest recommendation. The Mango Rita I had was very weak but a nice compliment to the Huevos Rancheros I ordered (Over Easy Eggs over Rice and Beans with Grilled Bell Pepper and Onions).
After that we hopped on a bus and rode another 45 minutes to a nearby beach area where the sea lions were coming right out of the ocean and interacting with the visitors. It was a beautiful spot and on our way back to our bus we stopped at Girado’s Bakery which featured absolutely perfect Iced Coffee, we also got a Trumpie Cookie— which was a cookie based on that fantastic Trump in a Diaper float sized balloon that was in London last week.
”You know, we actually are getting complaints about that cookie.” The owner whispered to me as she put it in a bag.
I told her people should lighten up. Not only am I a Republican but I support most of what Trump is doing and I can laugh about it.
We took the bus back and then the Trolley and then we walked around the Seaport district and grabbed some dinner at a nice little Hamburger stand. The convention reimburses us for all food purchases so we have to remember to ask for receipts.
Today we have the Eisner judging so we got up early to get our miles in before we have to sit so many hours for that.
Not sure how much I'll be posting but keep an eye on my Instagram (@AndyTFish) for what should be some pretty interesting pics all week.
We're heading to San Diego Comic Con today with a direct flight on JetBlue early this morning which will get us into San Diego airport at about 11 local time. We'll have today to lounge around and do nothing while tomorrow we're at the show all day as Judges for the Eisner's Spirit of Retailer Excellent Awards, picking the best comic store for this year's award ceremony which is held Saturday night.
SDCC is a mecca for all things pop culture but it's gotten a reputation of being more a Hollywood show than a comic book show. There are a ton of exclusives set up at the show and for me I'm looking to grab the great Universal Monsters figures from Super7's pop up shop on Friday;
We sent our luggage ahead with Number Two son who is driving across the country to do the show with Superworld Comics, so we're traveling with just our laptop bags which is nice.
After the Eisner judging on Tuesday we have Wednesday wide open but then we have panels on Thursday through Sunday so check the blog everyday if you're at the show to see where we can meet up.
The show is going to be crazy but we're honored that they would bring us out for it.
Of the thousands of films starring Mel Gibson or featuring Mad Max the only one worth it's salt is MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME.
The first film in the series is depressing and sickly violent, the second one doesn't fare much better but it was with this third one that film history was made. Casting Tina Turner as Auntie Entity seemed like a bold choice at the time and it seems like a bold choice now but she's great! So is Mel. So is the little person whose only other film I know him from is the 1970 schlock masterpiece DRACULA VS FRANKENSTEIN.
Tina Turner runs Bordertown, a makeshift post apocalyptic town where bartering is the order of the day. You find an old guitar that still works bring it here and cash it in. It's also home to MasterBlaster which is a combination of said Little Person riding on top of a huge lumbering guy as he manages the secret power of Bordertown-- that the gas from pig waste powers everything which makes him the ultimate power of this universe.
Sounds great, right? It is.
Then there's Thunderdome. Never before in Hollywood (or whatever Australian Cinema is called) history has a phrase and concept been put together.
Thunderdome; two men enter, one man leaves.
That's it. You have a problem with someone you duke it out in Thunderdome and the door doesn't get unlocked until one of you is dead.
And it's loaded with quotes you'll be using everyday while you shop at Price Rite;
- Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls... Dyin' time's here.
- Do you know who I was? Nobody. Except on the day after, I was still alive. This nobody had a chance to be somebody.
- I ain't Captain Walker. I'm the guy who carries Mr. Dead in his pocket.
- Well, ain't we a pair, raggedy man.
- You think I don't know the law? Wasn't it me who wrote it? And I say that this man has broken the law. Right or wrong, we had a deal. And the law says: bust a deal and face the wheel!
- Thunderdome's simple. Get to the weapons, use them any way you can. I know you won't break the rules, because there aren't any.
The biggest selling point is the cast-- the dialogue is ridiculous but they sell it and you'll believe every word that comes out of their mouths.
Two men enter, one man leaves.