Advertisements

Tag Archive: Hard-Traveling Heroes


Green Lantern 76 Adams

Every year something exciting makes its way to public auction.  Back in 2011 we discussed some great art from The Dark Knight Returns here at borg.com and again in 2013 here we discussed more cover art from The Dark Knight Returns hitting the market as well as some Dave Gibbons Watchmen cover art.  In December 2015, one of the most iconic covers of the Silver Age hit the auction block courtesy of Heritage Auctions.  That cover was Neal Adams’ original cover art to Green Lantern Issue #76 (learn more about it here), the book that launched the Bronze Age of comics in the minds of many historians, and the beginning of the “Hard-Traveling Heroes” story arc that forever re-defined Hal Jordan, Oliver Queen’s Green Arrow, and Dinah Lance’s Black Canary.

So what was the total paid, the auction hammer price including fees, for the cover art?

A whopping $442,150.  The twist on this auction is that in the 1970s, most original comic art was not returned to the artists, as has generally been done since then.  So many artists, including Neal Adams, have renounced the possession and sale of such pieces as “stolen”.  But this seller made a deal with Adams to share in the proceeds (with a cut for the charity The Hero Initiative), and so Adams agreed to endorse the sale with this comment:

“Since the proprietor of the cover has agreed to equitably share the income of the auction with me and my family I hereby validate sale and ownership of this piece and I will, in fact, supply a Certificate of Authenticity to the highest bidder of the auction, and the ownership of this cover will never be questioned by me.  This sharing of profit with the creator, of the sale of artwork produced back in those days when ownership has ever been in question, will in this case and may in all cases go far in bringing underground artwork into the light of a fair and open marketplace.”
For everyone who wasn’t that winning bidder, on shelves now at your local comic book store and via Amazon.com here is a deluxe hardcover edition of the entire Green Lantern/Green Arrow story by Dennis O’Neill and Neal Adams.  It’s a great full-color reading copy and reference.

After the cut, check out a high definition copy of the original cover art for Green Lantern Issue #76 that sold this past year.

Continue reading

Advertisements

By C.J. Bunce and Jason McClain

As we discussed yesterday, DC Comics has announced a new limited series to be released this year, Before Watchmen, focusing on the backstory, prequels, of each of the main characters of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ classic comic book series, Watchmen.  Moore has been pretty vocal any time someone takes one of his works and converts it into another medium.  This happened with Watchmen when it was made into a movie, with From Hell when it was made into a movie, with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen when it was made into a movie, with V for Vendetta when it was made into a movie (there’s a pattern here).  Moore’s a proprietary guy, yet the way publishing rights work, he has no legal control over the characters from books he created years ago.  To many, Moore is a comic book god.  An icon.  To others, he himself tears away at characters writers before him created, the definition of iconoclast.

This week he was quoted in the New York Times as saying of Before Watchmen, “I don’t want money.  What I want is for this not to happen” calling the effort “completely shameless” and adding “I tend to take this latest development as a kind of eager confirmation that they are still apparently dependent on ideas that I had 25 years ago.”

borg.com Hollywood writer Jason McClain and I have a lot in common, and a number of books and movies where we find ourselves on the opposite sides when it comes to analyzing works, especially ones receiving abundant critical acclaim.  Jason introduced me to the graphic novel Watchmen several years ago.  I read it and was not blown away by it.  I didn’t care about the characters, in part knowing the cast was all based on Charlton Comics characters that DC Comics decided in the end they did not want updated by Moore in his series.  In particular I didn’t care for either Dr. Manhattan, Moore’s take on Captain Atom, or Adrian Veidt, Moore’s take on Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt.  That said, I liked Rorschach–he was Moore’s take on the Question, a character I’ve always been a fan of.  I also liked Nite Owl, who although based on Blue Beetle seemed to me like a Batman knockoff–a good thing as some of my favorite characters fall in this category.  And I liked Silk Spectre, who was based on Nightshade but heavily influenced by Black Canary.  I liked these characters enough that I revisited the novel in advance of the movie premiering in March 2009 after Jason and I gazed at the cool Nite Owl ship at Comic-Con in 2008.  I really liked Watchmen, the movie. Jason didn’t.

So we decided to investigate each other’s views further.

CB:  Jason, why do you, and countless others, think Watchmen, the original comic book series, is such a major work?

JM:  I read your email during a basketball game at a sports bar.  It got me thinking so much that I realized I wasn’t watching the game anymore but thinking of a response.  Two things come to my mind.  The first is the design.  My friend Kevin Eib pointed out to me that the layout of the appropriately named chapter five, “Fearful Symmetry” as Rorschach investigates the death of The Comedian before he gets captured, has symmetry in the colors and the panel sizes.  If you start at the middle as Ozymandias hits his attempted assassin with a stanchion, you see the parallel in that panel, Ozymandias filling the left side and upright and in the right side, the villain, blood flowing out of his face as he falls to the floor head first and the “V” of “Veidt” centered in the background.  You saw a reason for the art and the design besides a “bam” and “pow” delivery system.

Second are the characters.  Before I read this, comics were pretty much the same, villain appears, hero stops him and everything is black and white.  This was different.  Were Rorschach and The Comedian heroes?  They certainly didn’t behave that way and they knew it too.  The Comedian got the joke.  He just defended the people with money.  That kind of grey reminds me of the Hard-Traveling Heroes stories of Green Lantern and Green Arrow that you introduced to me.  The landlord evicts a tenant who crawls back into his house to stay warm for the night.  In the eyes of the law, the ex-tenant is the bad guy and Green Lantern will stop him.  Green Arrow saw it differently, as the person with the capital had no compassion.  Who’s right?  Who’s the bad guy there?  I think Watchmen contemplates similar questions.  On the other hand, the movie, while it looked the same as the book, just didn’t convey that sense of moral ambiguity to me.  So, back at you, why did you like the movie?  Speaking of major works with bad movie adaptations, can you explain why you liked the movie version of From Hell (because I certainly didn’t)?  (I know we both liked the movie V for Vendetta and probably didn’t like the movie The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  I think I can definitely say there is a high Natalie Portman correlation between quality Moore adaptations and the non-quality ones.)

CB:  I do like your Green Arrow analogy.  In the comic book version of Watchmen, I just didn’t see the passion that the actors in the movie were able to bring to the characters.  I found the artwork bland in the comic book and it didn’t engage me.  I did recognize how either Moore or Gibbons liked the use of parallel panels, and I’ve seen that in other Moore works, but that seemed more like a visual gimmick to me.  In the movie, even what I considered the best part of the comic book, Rorschach, seemed to be a lot more than the character in the comic.  I guess I needed to see that facial special effect actually work.  His life is a disaster and you really feel for this guy.  And his relationship and past with Nite Owl was great.  Even Dr. Manhattan, who I didn’t care for in the comic, made me at least understand where he was coming from in the movie, and the struggle to have meaningful relationships with Nite Owl and Silk Spectre made me care far more about these characters than in the book.

In the movie, The Comedian was vile.  I didn’t have that reaction so much from the book.  My wife and I were discussing the movie for weeks afterward.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I prefer movies over comic books.  Definitely not the case.  I have read other comics over the years that dazzled me.  As much as I don’t care for most of what Frank Miller has created, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns was a standout for me–it was incredibly interesting, novel and clever.  The same goes for what I think is Moore’s best work: V for Vendetta.  I don’t think Watchmen the comic book was presented as well or had as compelling a story.   Hey–was Natalie Portman in any movie based on a Moore work other than V for Vendetta?

JM:  No, my own little joke at the expense of the other Moore movie adaptations.

CB:  Nice.  As for From Hell I am not a “big” fan of either the book or movie, although the movie is better in my mind because the mood is well done and Johnny Depp performed well in this period piece.  Frankly I am tired of Jack the Ripper stories and think it is the most over-done subject choice for retelling in any medium.  I think the best achievement in Jack the Ripper story is Malcolm MacDowell’s Time After Time, a retelling of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, with David Warner as the Ripper.  That is a compelling story, and a great spin on a classic Wells tale.  And The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was fun as movies go, but I agree it could have done so much more.  But some of that blame has to go to Moore for trying to do too much, I think.  But I don’t feel that work is trying to be as serious as his other works, so I am less critical of it.  Because of the jumbling together of all these figures, I always took it as more tongue in cheek.

JM:  I’m beginning to think it is a case of our feelings for the source material.  I really like Alan Moore’s writings and therefore don’t care much for the adaptations.  You’re probably not completely opposite, but because your feelings aren’t as strong for his written word, liking the movies become easier.  (Though I have to admit that I didn’t read From Hell before I saw it – that might have made the movie even worse for me.)

CB:  I love that you used the phrase “his written word” to describe his work (he really has that “comic book god” mystique, doesn’t he?).  But Moore seemed hypocritical to me in his comments in the New York Times last week.  In V for Vendetta, he re-worked England’s Guy Fawkes story.  In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, he re-imagined the characters of Mary Shelley, Jules Verne, Ian Fleming, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain and countless others.  In From Hell, he retold the real-life case of Jack the Ripper.  In Lost Girls (which makes my “all-time worst money spent on a book” list) he probably caused Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum, and J.M. Barrie to turn over in their graves for not just sexually exploiting classic beloved characters Alice, Dorothy and Wendy, but for writing a boring tale.  He did the same to Barbara Gordon in Batman: The Killing Joke (although this is a great book).  And Watchmen itself is a re-working of several Charlton Comics characters’ stories.  Moore is in the business of writing retellings (he himself has called it “stealing” characters), so who is he to criticize writers decades later for re-working characters he himself adapted?  Am I off-base here?

JM:  I think you make a valid point.  I hadn’t thought of it like that until you mentioned it.  At the same time though, Alan Moore definitely made quite a few of these characters better after he played with them. He created new worlds, new stories and fresh dialogue.  (I try to go back to read some of the dialogue of the comics of my youth and can barely get through a few pages before I wonder what I was thinking.)  Anyone who creates something feels a sense of ownership.  It’s like Krusty the Clown says in “Krusty Gets Kancelled”, “If this is anyone but Steve Allen, you’re stealing my bit.”  How many retellings of Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, MacBeth or Othello have there been over the ages?  Or for more recent public domain works, A Christmas Carol or Emma?

I think Moore comes across as a crotchety old man who tells the kids to get off his lawn, but I think we all do that.  If I may extend the lawn analogy, what makes these characters popular is what he did to them, kind of like the weeding, fertilizing, watering and care that go into an old man’s fine lawn.  Before he took in the characters, they were mostly unrecognizable under the slew of ever-increasing publishing weeds overshadowing them.  (I may be overstating the lack of popularity of some these characters.)  If they were still in their old forms, they’d have less of a market and right now he’s probably fighting an uphill battle to get more money (or control if you want to call it by its more genteel name) for his contributions though he didn’t create the grass.  As I wrote this, I found myself thinking of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.  They created Superman, but because they did it under contract for the longest time they and their estates didn’t get any of the royalties associated with it.  I’m sure Moore’s doing fine in comparison, but you still have to fight for what’s yours, even if you sound like Scrooge.

CB:  Thanks, Jason.  Next time maybe we’ll have to chat about Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.

What better way to celebrate borg.com’s 100,000th site visit than share some news about one of our favorite superheroes?  Hollywood writer Jason McClain alerted me to this news item, as it’s no secret I’m one of the biggest Green Arrow fans around.  The news?

The CW Network has ordered a TV series pilot featuring Green Arrow that will, happily, not be related to the Smallville series’ spin on the character.  The producer/writers tapped to create the pilot are Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim, the two writers responsible for last year’s Green Lantern movie, and ex-writer for the Green Arrow/Black Canary comic book series, Andrew Kreisberg.

Kreisberg took over the comic book series after Judd Winick moved off the GA/BC title.  He teamed with artist Mike Norton after Cliff Chiang left the series.  I have read Kreisberg’s take on Green Arrow and Black Canary, and I liked it.  Kreisberg wrote some good modern stories featuring the trio in both a lighthearted and action-packed way.  He clearly knows the roots of these characters and their strong relationships with each other, and hopefully he can convey that into the script for the pilot and get it onto the small screen.  He also once acknowledged that there is no other superhero team out there that is a married couple, that that IS Green Arrow’s story.  Right on!

Here are some unsolicited recommendations for Kreisberg, Berlanti and Guggenheim to make the series get off the ground right:

(1)  You might view your TV show as an ensemble show like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  An ensemble genre work usually is better than a solo character-focused show (think about the failed series The Cape and why it didn’t work, for example) because although we all loved the title character of Buffy Summers, we loved supporting characters Willow and Xander even more.  And like the best Batman stories, letting the lead hero take the back seat once in a while is a good thing.  At the same time, I didn’t watch Smallville because Clark never donned the supersuit.  Show Green Arrow in action with the bow once in a while, but just not in every scene.

(2)  Take the best of the Green Arrow canon and it will easily translate to today.  The “Hard Traveling Heroes” storyline that put both Green Arrow and Green Lantern on the map and made us want to know more about these characters was a road trip across America.  Something like the Winchester boys moving across country with every new episode in Supernatural.  You might laugh, but On the Road with Charles Kuralt, the CBS segment where he took an off-the-beaten path tour of America, lasted decades for a reason.  Viewers liked to see where he would go next.  You’ll have an unlimited number of settings for your story, too, if you keep the team moving, assuming they let you work with all three characters.

The Kid, Etta, and Butch--archetype for Ollie, Dinah, and Hal

(3)  Everyone likes a good “buddy picture.”  I have mentioned before how the “Hard Traveling Heroes” storyline reflected the 1969 world view, and 1969 entertainment.  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid came out in 1969 and was still in theaters when Denny O’Neil wrote the classic Green Arrow and Green Lantern crossover.  Did some of the hit movie rub off on O’Neil?  Who knows.  If you pay attention, you’ll see that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a buddy picture with three buddies, almost a “love triangle,” including some brotherly love between Butch and Ross’s character Etta Place.  That’s right, Katherine Ross’s role as the Kid’s girlfriend, and Butch’s pal, was as important to the film as each of the title characters.  Black Canary/Dinah Lance could have that same crucial role in a TV series about Ollie and Hal.

(4)  Even if Warner Brothers wants to keep Hal Jordan/Green Lantern out of the series, you must include Black Canary/Dinah Lance.  Don’t botch this by pulling ideas from the Dinah Lance of the short-lived Birds of Prey series.  It was good for what it was.  But you want dark-haired Dinah that sports the blonde wig used to go incognito, not the stilted friend of Oracle.  Green Arrow/Oliver Queen can go solo from time to time, but only when he can return to Dinah is he at his best.

(5)  Stay away from the DC 52 Green Arrow storyline and the obvious idea of having Oliver participate in some form of anti-big business Occupy Wall Street movement.  Sure, in real life, Ollie would be leading up the OWS marches, but I think most viewers don’t want a show about superheroes in current politics and as much as everyone hates greedy corporate America, more personal storylines will appeal to modern viewers.   The current series Leverage does this very well.  Think local.  Don’t have Ollie take on all of the world’s problems, have him take on each human problem bit by bit, maybe town by town.  It worked brilliantly for Adams and O’Neil.

Original Mike Norton art from a story under Kreisberg's turn as writer for Green Arrow/Black Canary

(6)  Oliver Queen is not Bruce Wayne.  He’s much more layered.  Queen is not a billionaire.  He lost all his money, and that allowed him to get interesting.  Don’t even waste time on his backstory as billionaire as it will only emphasize his role as a one-time obvious Batman knockoff.

(7)  Read up on your Mike Grell era of Green Arrow stories.  Grell was an ex-government intelligence guy who ended up writing spy novels and comic books.  He took the Neal Adams/Denny O’Neil Green Arrow and Black Canary and brought them into downtown Seattle and injected the backwoods survival skills and mixed it with street smarts.  He made Ollie the Urban Warrior.  This itself harkened back to the iconic Green Lantern Issue #76’s story whereby Green Arrow first takes on a greedy slumlord that Hal Jordan was unintentionally actually helping.

Personal sketch of Ollie and Dinah by Mike Grell

(8)  We know from past interviews that Andrew Kreisberg likes the role of Green Arrow and Black Canary as Oliver and Dinah–husband and wife.  Consider building on Mike Grell’s series, where they run the Sherwood Florist in Seattle by day.  And what the heck, work in Mia and Connor if you can.  And if you must update costumes, you gotta bring back Ollie’s goatee.  As Mikel Janin proved with his excellent recent update to similarly costumed Zatanna, Dinah’s fishnets can be optional.

(9)  The Flash TV series had a lot going for it.  One was the age of the actor in the lead roll, John Wesley Shipp, former soap actor.  He wasn’t 20-something.  He was 35 and looked like he could be a superhero in real life.  If you’re staying away from Smallville (a great move) then give us heroes who have had time to gain some wisdom, not some newbies who have no way of practically knowing all they would need to know in real life to get through their trials on the show (the TV series Bones is a big example of this glaring absurdity with its only-young cast that has knowledge you could only gain by being twice the age of the cast members).  Look for actors in their 30s or or even early 40s.

(10)  Suggested title?  If you take any of the ideas above, how about Hard Traveling, Hard Traveling Hero, or Hard Traveling Heroes?  Of course there are always other former storyline titles like Quiver.

I have no idea what limitations will be placed on Kreisberg & Co. as they work out the script for the TV series pilot.  Maybe they have no intention of including Hal and Dinah, but if they can, it could be something new and different and very fun.

If you want to see Andrew Kreisberg’s stories while writing for Ollie and Dinah, you can buy compilations, including: Green Arrow/Black Canary: Enemies List, Green Arrow/Black Canary: Big Game, and Green Arrow/Black Canary: Five Stages.

And Andrew, if you need help with story ideas, drop me a line.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Comic-Con Panel:  Wild Cards or Recommendations from Friends

By Jason McClain (@jtorreyMcClain)

I know what I like and I think most people do as well.  We often don’t go looking for things that are going to go against that grain and instead look for things that reinforce our beliefs.  For example, people labeled with the generalization of “liberals” generally will not watch Fox News and conversely those labeled as “conservatives” will generally not watch Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow.  Why watch something that will just anger you or go against your beliefs that you have worked your whole life to create?[i]

Politics is an easy example as people tend to avoid the other side.  However, it is just as easy to see in popular culture[ii] or in comics.[iii]

We find what we like and we go with it.  How do we find what we like though?  Sometimes it is at home (my father brought home copies of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy for our bookshelf and I just started to read them) or school (isn’t that how we all find The Great Gatsby?) or a bookstore (I found The Perks of Being a Wallflower by just sitting on the floor in a Barnes and Noble and picking a book at basically random from where I sat).

Oftentimes it is because of a recommendation of a friend.  Because a friend from college, Jason Teiken[iv], lent me Wild Cards I ended up going to the George R.R. Martin hosted panel[v] at Comic-Con this year. It has been probably 20 years since I read those books, but because I loved the stories of Aces and Jokers within each novel’s prose, I knew that sitting in a panel would be a great way to think back to that experience and maybe reopen it in the future.

However, at the time I first read the Wild Card books, I remember thinking, why would I want to read about superheroes in a book and not a comic?  Once I started reading, I remember thinking who in the hell is this guy Fortunato? Powers from tantric sex and building up a giant orgasm?  What the #$%?  Is this pornography?  Daredevil wouldn’t do this.  Oh God, can the villains out there sexually take advantage of Daredevil?  Won’t someone think of Matt Murdock?[vi]

Years later in graduate school, having drifted away from comics, I found them again thanks to “Kingdom Come”, a recommendation from a fellow student, Matt Massey, and it still is my favorite mini-series/graphic novel of all time. Moving around the country tends to prohibit you from accumulating things beyond what can fit in your car, comics included, and if you aren’t going to be buying comics, there isn’t a point to going to a comic book store to keep up with what is out there.

Coming back to comics at several different points always leads to new things. Once I had a more stable existence, a friend who worked in a comic shop[vii] turned me onto Brian Michael Bendis and J. Michael Straczynski.  My good friend, the editor of this site C.J. Bunce, turned me onto the Neal Adams/Denny O’Neil Hard-Traveling Heroes run of Green Lantern and Green Arrow which led to a great panel in the 2010 Con about Batman becoming a nocturnal hero instead of the campy cartoon of the 60s.  I loved listening to them talk about the behind the scenes moments that led to how we view Batman today.

This doesn’t just lend itself to comics either. Books (my friend David Popham recommended On Writing by Stephen King and it was a great read that I’ve recommended to other writers and my friend Jon Dunkle keeps a blog of book reviews at Rain of Error that I will go to when I hit a library or go crazy on Amazon and he led me to Aimee Bender’s “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake”), movies (my friend Steve Sides recommended the wonderful Lars and the Real Girl and kept reminding me to watch until I saw it and loved it), podcasts (I thank Marcus Janzow for my exposure to the not-updated-enough, “The Memory Palace,”) and music (comps from my friend Scott Eggimann led me to “The Weakerthans”) have all entered my consciousness through friends.

Now, I feel I can recommend these items to people everywhere. Then I suppose they’ll recommend and so forth. I suppose I’ve really just outlined the inner workings of the ever-elusive word of mouth marketing in pieces of art that relate to me. However, it’s still my friends that end up giving me some of the best recommendations that I’ll ever have and those help to shape my tastes. When you start to think about it, isn’t that what friends are for on the larger levels as well?

So, thanks to friends I still see and friends that I don’t. I thank you for the time you take to let me know about the things you love and sharing them with me. No matter if it is forgotten how those loves got to me in the first place, they are there because of a good friend and that won’t be forgotten.

[i] Assuming people work for their beliefs because some might just take some beliefs and be happy not having to worry about working for them. It’s the whole division of labor thing.

[ii] If a friend recommends to you that you really need to give Justin Bieber a listen because you don’t understand the beauty in his music, would you be more likely to listen to the Biebs or refuse to listen to your friend talk about music?  What about Ke$ha?  Phish?  Lady Gaga? Motley Crue?  AC/DC?  Prince?  Oasis?  Nickelback?  Is there a band that would cause you to kick your friend to the curb?

[iii] I won’t say more than “Marvel or DC?”

[iv] He also introduced me to Twin Peaks and I’m enjoying watching those on Netflix streaming right now.

[v] The panel had all the different contributing authors talking about favorite characters and possible future routes of the series and it was pretty interesting to just reminisce. However, the people that were just waiting for the next panel with Nathan Fillion gained an interest in the series just from listening to the authors. That was probably the most intriguing part of the hour. I mean, isn’t Comic-Con just a big gathering of “friends” sharing their different loves of fantasy/sci-fi/comics/pop-culture with one another?  I would go on, but any pronoun use in this sentence with the verb “share” would just lead to an unintended double-entendre.

[vi] Yes, that is an overreaction on behalf of Matt Murdock because he can take care of himself.  Plus, the language was probably different from a generally naïve Midwestern undergraduate but the idea of reading about tantric sex, delaying orgasms or even mentioning orgasms felt weird within what I knew about comics. I think at that point I had yet to put together the meaning of the band name “Queen,” let alone read about sex in comics period especially when comic heroes are supposed to be saving the world and drinking their milk. Needless to say, I had yet to find Alan Moore. My friend Jason Vivone changed that later.

[vii] Kind of similar to the whole “is a drug dealer a friend” thing as the only times we interacted were in his comic store as he fed my addiction to “Planetary,” “Powers” and “Rising Stars.”