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The Curse of Batgirl (Happy Birthday, Barbara Gordon)

According to Superhero Stuff, today is Barbara Gordon’s official birthday!

While the rest of the blogosphere wishes her a happy birthday, we thought we would explore “The Curse of Batgirl” just to put a different spin on things.
Batman on Television: The Curse of Batgirl begins with Yvonne Craig sinking the unsinkable 1966 Television series
Commissioner Gordon’s daughter Barbara came onto the scene as Batgirl, and became known to millions in the third and final season of the TV show in the person of Yvonne Craig.  Some say this began the curse by which the appearance of Batgirl signals a Batman franchise has exhausted its formula and its demise is soon to follow.  While the 60s series did fail shortly after Batgirl’s arrival, the fault almost certainly lies in the show’s popularity.  All the stars of the day wanted to appear as a “Special Guest Villain” limiting the fan favorites: Burgess Meredith’s Penguin, Caesar Romero’s Joker, and Julie Newmar’s Catwoman.

Her addition to Batman the Animated Series also marked a definite shift in the show’s look and tone, and not a change for the better.  While later seasons and the barely-watchable Batman Beyond found its audience among the younger set, the triumph of the original Dini-Timm series was a memory.  Barbara herself was described as “A power puff girl” and in the spirit of the old Filmation cartoon and the 60s TV show, she would be the one to spring any trap or jump to the wrong conclusion solving any problem in the course of an investigation.

Breakout

She occasionally hinted at a romantic interest in Bruce, which was downright creepy considering the extreme youth of her portrayal and the presence of Dick Grayson in the series.  Bruce naturally never encouraged it, which made her later allusions to an imagined chemistry in Batman Beyond seem deluded and bitter.  It is a pathetic end for such a character, but Beyond consistently portrayed that core lack of respect for the first generation characters, part of its great flaw and the reason it is dismissed by fans who aren’t stuck in that adolescent piss-on-the-old-stuff mentality.

The less said of Barbara Wilson, Alfred’s niece and the Batgirl of Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin, the better.  All sentient beings know it was Joel Schumacher who was the true death of the franchise.  Alicia Silverstone’s Batgirl was merely one of the symptoms, not the cause.  Yet the inclusion of Batgirl certainly holds as a sign that things are not well.

Barbara Gordin is Oracle, working with Batman and Catwoman's daughter Helena in the Birds of PreyBut Batgirl is only half of the Barbara Gordon story.  As comic fans knew, and a television audience discovered in 2002’s Birds of Prey, Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl is shot by the Joker and confined to a wheelchair.  She continues her crimefighting as the super-hacker called Oracle.  In comics she was part of a team called the Birds of Prey with two other crimefighters: The Huntress and Black Canary.  This team was brought to television in 2002, replacing the comics version of Huntress with her original incarnation: Helena Kyle/Wayne the daughter of Batman and Catwoman.

Breakout:

The show quickly bombed but the fault lies in poor scripts, a depressing tone, and a decided bait and switch in the promotional materials.  The WB ads focused on Batman and Catwoman’s romance, and those attracted by that ad would be disappointed to learn Catwoman was dead, Batman would never appear and that he would be dismissed in the general “down with men” tone of the show.

So once again, while Barbara is present, this time played by the lovely Dina Meyer, we can hardly lay the failure at her door.

The Birds of Prey in comics has been a long-running hit, the only success DC has found in a female-centric comic.  That is certainly the work of writer Gail Simone.   Simone continues to write Barbara Gordon in “The New 52”  the relaunched DC Comics universe where all recent history has been erased and all stories and characters “rebooted.”   The shooting, the wheelchair and “Oracle” are gone, but Barbara Gordon remains, Batgirl once again.

Happy Birthday Barbara!

*While the Barbara Gordon Batgirl appeared in other animated incarnations like the 1966 Filmation cartoons and 2004’s “The Batman,” their success was never on par with the other shows and movies discussed, so the question of a ‘curse’ was never raised.

You can’t make any money with Batman: How Batman Almost Never Left the Bat Cave

Producer of the Top Grossing Movies Reveals How Rejections and Perseverance Paved The Way to The Batman Movie Franchise

You cant make any money with Batman: How Batman Almost Never Left the Batcave

The Boy Who Loved Batman, Michael Ulsan

He has generated $2.6 billion in worldwide box office grosses, countless millions in toy and merchandise sales and survived not one, but two battles with a homicidal maniac. What’s more, he’s not done yet.

Batman is one of the world’s most dependable film properties, with even the worst entry in the franchise’s history still charting $238 million in receipts. As the trailer for the next installment of the franchise, The Dark Knight Rises, debuts online and with the release of the blockbuster Harry Potter film conclusion, millions have already started the countdown until next July when the new film opens.

But if it weren’t for the perseverance of one man who toiled nearly 10 years to make the franchise’s first entry in 1989, it would not have happened at all.

“When I bought the film rights to Batman in 1979, no one wanted to make a Batman movie,” said Michael Uslan, executive producer — along with partner Benjamin Melnicker — of the modern Batman film franchise.
“Well, not a good one, anyway. First, the president of DC Comics tried to convince me not to buy the film rights. He told me that no one wanted to make a Batman movie, but I made the deal, anyway. Who knew that he was actually on the money? I was rejected by every studio in town, multiple times, before I was able to convince people that Batman would be viable as a serious interpretation and not as a comedy.”

Uslan was shut down early and often by studio heads, for seemingly ridiculous reasons, too.

“Most of the studio executives I pitched swore up and down that Batman could never work as a movie,” said Uslan, who tells the story in his new memoir The Boy Who Loved Batman.  “One complained that it wouldn’t make money because Annie — the musical version of Little Orphan Annie — didn’t make money. I asked him what Annie had to do with Batman, and he replied, ‘Oh come on, Michael, they’re both from the funny pages.’ One guy even told me that Batman and Robin wouldn’t work because a Sean Connery movie about an aging Robin Hood and Maid Marian — called Robin and Marian — didn’t work. I didn’t bother to press him, but I’m assuming he felt that having the name ‘Robin’ in the title was somehow box office poison. At the end of the day, it was clear that the studio bosses in the 1970s and 1980s felt that comic books weren’t worthy of being translated into movies. Their view was that comic books were just cheap, disposable entertainment for kids.”

Of course, since 1989’s Batman, comic books have been rich fodder for studios, with Spider-Man, X-Men, Iron Man and others bringing in billions of dollars in box office and licensing revenue.

“What we showed with Batman was that you could make a good, dark and serious comic book movie,” Uslan said. “What we proved with the Dark Knight was that we could use comic book-based material to transcend the genre and simply make a good movie, period. The bottom line is that Batman changed the industry, and if I didn’t bloody my knuckles for close to ten years on doors that were repeatedly slammed in my face, comic book related films might not be enjoying the success they are having today.”

DC’s NEW 52 Sales Figures Some Historical Perspective from Newsarama

DC Comics Everything Depends on winning back the readers they have lostDC Comics future depends on winning back readers they have lost and fans they have alienated in years of mishandling the marquee characters like Batman and Catwoman in time to capitalize on mainstream interest generated by The Dark Knight Rises and related offerings.  The sales figures from the first weeks are largely curiosity buys and collectors buys, and reveal little about how serious the new Warner Bros.-driven DC Entertainment is about righting past wrongs of the old DC Comics.  But Newsarama provides an interesting analysis of the first wave of sales numbers from the limited perspective of those who never left the comics bubble.

To give some perspective to DC’s sales achievement of print comics so far during the months of August and September, Newsarama gathered some historical sales figures for comparison.

– DC has reported that two New 52 titles sold more than 200,000 copies on their first printing: Justice League #1 and Action Comics #1.

– The last time one comic sold more than 200,000 copies was the Amazing Spider-Man issue with U.S. President Obama on the cover in January 2009.

– The last time DC hit the 200,000 was the Brad Meltzer/Ed Benes issue of Justice League of America #1 in August 2006, with 212,178 copies that month.

– According to Bob Wayne, DC’s senior vice president of sales, the total number of the Meltzer JLA issues sold is DC’s prior 21st Century “high water mark” for Justice League. It was achieved with multiple printings. According to Diamond’s publicly released sales figures, the total sales over several month was 238,353.

– “The historical sales number for that 2006 issue of JLA accumulated over three months,” Wayne told Newsarama. “I expect we’ll exceed it within three weeks.”

– DC reported that eight additional titles have surpassed sales of 100,000 copies. It’s been rare for the last few years that any comic sells more than 100,000 copies during a sales month. To give context to the achievement, the last time a DC comic sold more than 100,000 copies was in June 2010 with Batman #700, which sold 104,755 copies.

– To give further perspective to the number, DC’s top-selling comic this year, Flashpoint #1, did not top 100,000 sold in a month, instead topping out in May at 86,981. DC’s second level comic during the event, Green Lantern, which is also its recent top-selling regular title, has been selling in the 70,000-75,000 range for the last year.

– Nine comics with sales above 100,000 copies from one publisher in a month is also rare. According to Newsarama’s research the last time there were nine comic titles selling more than 100,000 copies from one publisher was in May 2007, when Marvel had 11. According to Comichron, 2007 was the high-water mark in yearly sales since 1997, with over 85 million units sold.

via Newsarama.com

See related:
Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle Retro-active: a vintage interview with the star Batman creative team DC Comics has brought back for Batman Retroactive
DC Comics relaunch… enough to repair the damage?
Retroactive: Can DC Comics Win Back Lost Readers?
DC Retroactive: Batman – The ’80s

Why Doesn’t Batman Kill? | Comics Alliance

The one thing all Batman fans with any understanding of the character agree on is that the great flaw of Tim Burton’s Batman movies and Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins is getting the most important aspect of Batman’s core philosophy wrong.  Batman does not kill.  Nolan at least corrected the great Hollywood error in The Dark Knight.  Burton never recognized his mistake.  Chris Sims at Comics Alliance has gone back into the comics roots of the 1940s to explain the core misunderstanding about Batman, his refusal to use a gun, and his non-negotiable reverence for life.Batman does not kill, Batman does not use a gun

Q: Batman’s no kill policy: when did it start in the comics and what do you see as the limits of it? (Killing vs. “Not Saving”)

A: All right, guys, look. I know that these last few weeks of Ask Chris have been even more Batman-centric than usual, and I fully intended to focus on something else this week to give everyone a break. But then this one came along, and I just can’t resist.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, there actually are other things that I like and know stuff about, and I’ll get to them. Just not this week, because the the history of whether or not Batman should kill people and why is one that I have some very strong feelings on.

Batman’s policy against killing — and specifically the use of a gun — is one that crops up from time to time in discussions of the character, and it always really bugs me when someone brings up the idea that “the original Batman” carried guns and killed people, which is technically true, but doesn’t quite reflect what was going on in those comics. I know, you’re all shocked that I’m bothered when people are wrong on the Internet about Batman — the single worst sin a man can commit — but the whole idea of “the Original Batman” is a false construct that’s completely dispelled if you go back and look at the timeline of how the character developed, and it had a lot less to do with Batman himself than the influences his creators were inspired by.

First, the facts: In the stories immediately after his first appearance in 1939, Batman did carry a gun and had a much more casual attitude towards the death of his opponents that saw him occasionally killing people. In fact, in his Original Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes, Michael Fleisher describes the first year of Golden Age Batman stories as having a “grim brutality” in which “easily a score of criminals die by his hand.”

The most common example of this aspect of the early Batman stories — probably because of how much it’s been reprinted over the years — is his first appearance in Detective Comics #27, in which Batman slugs a ne’er-do-well so hard that he falls into a vat of acid…

Batman does not kill, Batman does not use a gun

…and responds with a brusque “a fitting end for his kind.” There’s just no way around it: the Batman who appears in “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate” is a stone cold killer, and the following issues, where he packs an automatic and occasionally stomps a dude to death seem to back that up:

Batman does not kill, Batman does not use a gun

But I think there’s a misconception among a lot of readers that this was the original intent of the creators, and that the murderous, gun-toting Batman persisted until Dr. Wertham or the Comics Code or even the 1966 TV show arrived and forced a change that toned him down. But by going back and reading through those first couple years of Batman stories, it’s easy to see that this wasn’t the case at all. The fact of the matter is that this “original” version of Batman lasted about two years.

By 1940’s Batman #4, in a story by co-creators Bill Finger and Bob Kane — which is about as definitive as you can get — Batman reminds Robin that “we never kill with weapons of any kind.”

As crazy as it might sound, the Batman who killed in those early stories wasn’t really Batman — or at least, not Batman as he’d become, and certainly not Batman as we think of him today. Keep in mind that when these stories were told, Batman wasn’t just a new character, he was a new character in an entirely new medium. The Golden Age is full of comics by people that were driven as much by the desire to create stories as they were by the sudden and extremely lucrative popularity that medium was enjoying after Superman became such a massive success. These were guys who were literally just making it up as they went along, and as a result, the stories and their internal continuity took a few years to settle down and become a coherent whole.

To give you an idea of just how mutable these stories were, consider this: The single most important thing about Batman as a character, the fact that his parents were murdered and his decision to become a vigilante to avenge their deaths, did not exist until six months after he was created. The murder, the vow, the bat crashing through the window, everything that we think of as the core of his character didn’t appear until Detective Comics #33, and that’s only the start of the idea of “Batman” becoming a cohesive, unique entity. Before that, he’s definitely recognizable as a prototype, but he’s not Batman just yet.

Of course, if the guy running around in a Batman costume fighting crime in those early stories isn’t Batman, that raises the question of who he actually is, and that’s an easy one to answer. He’s The Shadow.

Batman does not kill, Batman does not use a gun

I’ve mentioned before that Batman was influenced by a variety of sources including the brand-new super-hero and Sherlock Holmes, but there was nothing Finger and Kane drew from in those early issues more than the Shadow. The millionaire playboy alter-ego, the spooky presence, even the fact that he flies around in an autogyro and battles against mad scientists and Yellow Peril caricatures, those were all things lifted from the Shadow — and so were the guns and the killing.

It was only later that Batman was fully realized as his own character rather than just a knockoff, and that’s something even the creators seemed to realize. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Bill Finger revisited the end of “The Case of the Criminal Syndicate” for the beginning of another story where Batman knocked a crook into a chemical plant’s vat of acid, only to have him survive and return as the Joker.

Of course, that sudden shift in 1940 wasn’t the last time Batman would be shown as a killer. In the ’80s, presumably spurred by a desire for comics in general and Batman specifically to be more “mature” in the wake of books like The Dark Knight Returns — in which, it should be noted, the Batman doesn’t kill — there was a sudden rush of comics that showed him to be, at the very least, pretty unconcerned about the matter of people dying around him.

Specifically, two creators that had Batman crossing the line are Jim Starlin and Mike W. Barr, who are actually two of my all-time favorite Batman writers. Starlin wrote the very first Batman comic I ever read, but even that features Batman baiting two crooks into blowing each other away with uzis while he casually leaps out of a crossfire, and Ten Nights of the Beast — a story that I am way more fond of than anyone actually should — ends with Batman locking the KGBeast in a sewer and leaving him there to starve to death. Marv Wolfman would later retcon it so that Batman eventually tipped off the authorities — making the whole thing into one gigantic Time Out for a guy who killed a hundred Gothamites in 4 issues — but the original intent is clear.

Barr, though, is even more bloodthirsty. Again, he’s one of my favorites — “Fear For Sale” is one of the best Batman stories ever, and I recently listed “The Doomsday Book” from Detective #572 as an underrated classic. Unfortunately, not only does Batman use a thug as a human shield in that story…

Batman does not kill, Batman does not use a gun

…he also wrote a story called “Messiah of the Crimson Sun” where Batman just straight up kills Ra’s al-Ghul, and then when Robin points this out, he responds with “Did I, Robin? Did I?” Yes, Batman. Yes, you did. You used a remote control to override his spaceship controls and flew him into a giant laser beam, then opened the hatch so that his ashes were blown out into the vacuum of space.

Ra’s came back of course — that’s what Ra’s does — but Batman has no reason to believe that he will after one of the most thorough murders in comics history. He threw his ashes into space.

For me, though, both of those things fall squarely into the category of Plot Points I Completely Ignore, because as far as I’m concerned, “Batman Does Not Kill” is one constant, immutable traits of the character, as much an inherent and necessary part of him as anything else. There are plenty of metatextual reasons for it — ranging from the nature of the super-hero as something that appeals to children to the fact that if Batman actually killed the Joker, then we wouldn’t get any more Joker stories and that would suck — but there are also equally valid in-story reasons for it.

And again, they’re often misconstrued, both by readers and by the creators. There’s a scene in Judd Winick’s run where Jason Todd confronts Batman and flat-out asks him why he doesn’t just kill the Joker — which, all things considered, is a pretty fair question — and Batman answers by telling him that it would be too easy and that it’s a slippery slope that, much like Pringles, once he popped, he would not be able to stop.

Batman does not kill, Batman does not use a gun

That’s nonsense.

Batman’s a guy who trained himself to be the world’s best martial artist and a guy who could solve crossword puzzles in his head while cross-referencing crime locations with Italian clown operas. He came back from a broken back through sheer force of will and beat an addiction to Venom in a weekend by locking himself in his basement and growing a beard. I’m pretty sure that if he set his mind to killing the Joker and then not committing any more murders, he could probably make that happen.

I actually like the scene up to that point and its portrayal of Jason Todd’s pretty legitimate beef with Batman’s policy, but it’s the halfhearted, wishy-washy “oh but I want to!” exploration of why Batman doesn’t kill completely tanks it for me. The only reason that Batman should give as to why he doesn’t kill is that the Batman doesn’t kill. That’s all there is to it.

But there is an underlying reason for it, and it’s one that the scene above doesn’t touch. And it all hinges on the idea that Batman is a crimefighter. That’s a very specific word that’s applied to Batman for a very specific reason, and it encapsulates the very specific aspect that separates him from other characters. At its core, the idea of Batman is one that’s extremely oppositional, and it’s set not just against evil in general, but the very concept of capital-C Crime.

It seems contradictory given that in many ways, Batman is a criminal himself, a vigilante who operates outside the law with methods and that are certainly illegal. Fleisher’s encyclopedia even includes a list of Batman’s “particularly flagrant violations of civil liberties and due process” that sprawls out over two pages. And that’s only the notable ones, in a book that was published 30 years ago.

But if we’re going to accept Batman as a hero — and I think it’s pretty clear at this point that I have — then there needs to be a clear demarcation of what separates the idea of Batman from the idea of Crime. And that’s the easiest thing in the world to figure out.

Batman does not kill, Batman does not use a gun

Batman’s entire idea of Crime, his entire perception of what it means to break the rules set down by society, descends from exactly one moment: his parents’ murder. That one act, the taking of a life, is the defining moment of his life, and it defines what he swears to battle against. The very act of killing another person is what he has devoted his whole life to working against, and it’s complete and utter anathema to him.

It’s also why he doesn’t use guns. In his mind, a gun is quite literally the weapon of a criminal — the only criminal that matters, the one that represents Crime as an overarching enemy, a force that Batman has to reckon with. In his world, there’s a symbolism to a gun that’s just as powerful as the symbol that is Batman: as much as he terrifies the superstitious, cowardly lot that make up Crime, the gun is what terrifies a populace that’s been made afraid of criminals.

It’s these layers of symbolism and concepts literalized into characters that make Batman so compelling as a character and, and what defines his existence on a metaphorical level. For Batman, Crime is killing, and the opposite of Crime is Batman.

As to the limits of this rule, that’s a little bit more of a gray area. There’s a common interpretation of Batman as someone who just doesn’t want anyone to die, ever, and while that’s certainly a valid interpretation up to a point, I think it centers far more on the act of murder as a criminal transgression. For me, it comes down to two simple concepts that are etched in stone: Batman doesn’t kill, and Batman will not allow one person to kill another. These two rules apply to everyone, from Commissioner Gordon on down to the Joker, and as long as they’re in place, I think of the portrayal of Batman as valid. Anything beyond those is just set dressing.

The idea of “killing” versus “not saving,” is a much more metaphysical one that really comes down to whether your personal philosophy equates inaction with an evil act. The infamous “I won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you” scene is my least favorite part of Batman Begins, but at the same time, stories where Batman does more than the bare minimum and goes out of his way to save the Joker at great personal risk always ring really false for me.

All things being equal, I’d probably prefer Batman to rescue everyone if it comes down to it because it feels more traditionally heroic, but I’d prefer it if that situation never happened again. At this point, that Batman stops the Joker from slipping on a banana peel and falling into an open volcano or whatever, he starts to look less like a hero and more like an idiot who should probably just let that one take its course.

via Ask Chris (About Batman) #54: Why Doesn’t Batman Kill? – ComicsAlliance | Comic book culture, news, humor, commentary, and reviews.

Can ‘Deadman’ be the next Smallville for CW | Earth Station One

With comic book adaptations firing up the big screen, television is doing its best to keep up.  Sometimes successfully, sometimes not.  CW has had better luck than anyone with Smallville, which ran longer than any comic-based television show.  The ill-conceived Birds of Prey, on the other hand, struggled to make it through a single season.  The less said about NBC’s Wonder Woman debacle the better.

DC is still considered a good buy, however:

dc-comics-deadman-the-next-smallville-for-cwWith Smallville ending its 10-season run this past May, the CW has made launching a new superhero franchise based on a DC property a priority. The network’s first effort this development season is Deadman, a drama based on the DC Comics books by Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino, which will be written and executive produced by Supernatural creator Eric Kripke. The project is about the spirit of a murdered man, Boston Brand, who lives on as he inhabits other people’s bodies and helps them solve crises in their own lives. It is produced by Warner Bros. TV, which handles the mining of the DC catalog for TV series.

“We’re looking next year to do a superhero show if the right superhero comes to be,” CW president Mark Pedowitz said at TCA last month, noting the advantage of having Time Warner-owned DC Comics in the family. (CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS). Getting Kripke to develop Deadman seems like a no-brainer as he is the man behind CW’s longest running scripted series on the air. Sci-fi drama Supernatural enters its seventh season this fall and Pedowitz recently indicated that it is not intended to be the show’s last. While no longer a hands-on showrunner (Supernatural is co-run by Sera Gamble and Robert Singer), Kripke continues to serve as an executive producer.
via ‘Earth Station One.

See related:
The Dark Knight writer David S. Goyer teams with Showtime for adaptation of 100 bullets

Written by Gotham Trending

08/27/2011 at 12:01 am

DC Comics: The New 52 Extended Commercial

Yesterday, Gotham Trending showed the 30-second spot DC Comics rolled out to advertisetheir upcoming company-wide relaunch to win back the fans they have lost.  Recognizing they cannot use the usual channels of comic shops and comics-related websites, because the people they need to reach left long ago, these new ads will air in movie theaters as part of Cine First Look trailers and on television.

Today we have the extended version:

See Related:
New 52 Event: Jim Lee and Geoff Johns at Midtown Comics in NY Times Square August 30th
DC Comics: The New 52

Written by Gotham Trending

08/18/2011 at 1:27 pm

DC Comics: The New 52

DC Comics understands that if their upcoming company-wide relaunch is to win back the fans they have lost, they cannot do it through comic shops or comics-related websites, because the people they are trying to reach left long ago, and with no intention of returning.  This 30-second trailer will air on television and in theaters to promote the September relaunch of its superhero line.

Written by Gotham Trending

08/17/2011 at 9:30 am