Culture on My Mind – So Much Yummier

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
So Much Yummier
August 15, 2022

This week, I’m thinking about the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track and a big anniversary.

On July 28th, I joined Joe Crowe, Gary Mitchel, and Kevin Cafferty (Gleaming the Tube) to discuss the 30th anniversary of Batman Returns. This was my first introduction to Batman on the screen, and it led the way to my discovery of Batman ’66. This film is pure Tim Burton (for many reasons) and pushed the boundaries of sexuality, feminism, and brutality in the 1980s-90s era of comic book film.

These Classic Track Quarantine Panels will be held once every two weeks (or every fortnight, if you will). If you want to play along at home, grab your internet-capable device of choice and navigate the webs to the YouTube channel and/or the group on Facebook. If you join in live, you can also leave comments and participate in the discussion using StreamYard connected through Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch.

If you want to connect with the track, Joe, and/or Gary on the socials, you can find them on Twitter (ClassicTrack, JoeCroweShow, and sneezythesquid) and Instagram (SciFiClassicTrack, JoeCroweShow, and Gary_Mitchel). And, of course, to celebrate more pop culture awesomeness, you can find Dragon Con all year round on the internet, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

The next panel will be on August 25th as a Dragon Con teaser leads the track into live-action panels at Dragon Con 2022. You can find all of this and more every other Thursday as the American Sci-Fi Classics Track explores the vast reaches of classic American science fiction.

The episode art each week is generously provided by the talented Sue Kisenwether. You can find her (among other places) on Women at Warp: A Star Trek Podcast.


Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – DC FanDome and Justice League

Culture on My Mind
August 28, 2020


Last weekend saw teases of the future for DC Entertainment at DC FanDome. Effectively like Comic Con, but centered strictly on the worlds of DC Comics, FanDome covered the spectrum of comic books, movies, television, and video games. Another event is scheduled for September 12th.

Of course, this event came on the heels of mass layoffs at DC, including one-third of the company’s editorial staff and the majority of the crew at the DC Universe streaming service. The future of DC Entertainment seems to be the recently launched HBO Max service.

In particular, I am interested in the future of DC Entertainment on film, so the majority of the trailers I took in this weekend were from that front.


Wonder Woman 1984

The trailer that I enjoyed the most was the Wonder Woman 1984 preview. It is no secret that I absolutely loved the first Wonder Woman film starring Gal Gadot, including how it balanced the realities of war with the title character’s message of compassion and acceptance. This sequel was hit hard by the pandemic and has been rescheduled to October 2nd. I’m looking forward to seeing it in theaters if possible.


The Suicide Squad

I was also intrigued by the “roll call” teaser for The Suicide Squad. The first film with Amanda Waller’s team was overly encumbered by its own darkness. There were a lot of interesting moments, and I did love Margot Robbie’s interpretation of Harley Quinn, but the rest really felt like a slog through the swamp.

Enter James Gunn. His work on the Guardians of the Galaxy films for Marvel has stoked my excitement to see this one, as has the lineup of actors. Peter Capaldi had me interested when he mentioned having to lose his iconic hair for this role, and that’s going to be a hard one for me to process on screen.

I’m also reminded that I still need to see Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn).


The Batman

The next adventure of the Caped Crusader appears to be inspired by Batman: Year One. When this was announced, I was not particularly excited because I feel like Batman is done too often. Quite often, he’s done with too much emphasis on the vigilantism and fear, and not nearly enough on his technical and detective skills.

This version seems to be getting back to basics. I’m eager to see what comes of future previews when the movie is closer to completion.


Justice League: The Snyder Cut

The last big trailer is for a project that I’m not excited about.

I was not very familiar with Zack Snyder’s work prior to Man of Steel. The only film of his that I had seen was 300, and I despised it. While Man of Steel‘s vision of Superman was not what I expected from a Superman film, I still enjoyed it for the most part. It did not have a lot of humor, which is something that I expect from a Superman story, but it was also a “Superman Begins” tale. From his rise as a hero to the lessons learned from killing Zod, destroying massive amounts of real estate, and endangering the people he typically has sworn to protect to a fault, Man of Steel paved a good path forward for a vision of Superman in a post-9/11 world.

Unfortunately, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice did not capitalize on that. In fact, Dawn of Justice was a mess. It played with the dichotomy of how the modern public might see superheroes, ranging from gods to fear-inspiring menaces. It introduced a seasoned and jaded Batman who found a mission in putting Superman in his place by fencing in the Kryptonian’s scope. It introduced the meddling machinations of Lex Luthor who wreaked havoc by playing with forces that he didn’t understand. It also provided us a first look at Wonder Woman in this universe.

But Superman didn’t grow. He was just as aloof and dispassionate in this film as he was in his introductory piece, only gaining a sense of passion and duty toward the human race in the moments before his death (by an overpowered enemy that felt like a last-minute thought more than a natural progression). Meanwhile, Batman’s character was reduced to one of single-minded paranoia-driven reprisals. He did some detective work, which was nice, but that was offset by him becoming that which he swore to defeat by committing theft and murdering so many people in the course of two and a half hours.

Add in the convoluted political plot and the disjointed flashes of DC Comics lore that excited die-hards but confused general audiences – Batman’s visions of a post-apocalyptic world where a vengeful Superman reigns, a time-traveling Flash, and Lex’s remote-learning session with Steppenwolf about the Mother Boxes were true head-scratchers for my non-comics-versed family and friends – and you end up with a muddled experience. There was just too much to cover in the time allotted.

When Justice League came along, Joss Whedon (despite all of his recently-revealed faults) was a welcome addition. His impact on the screenplay was evident with the lighter mood and tone, leaving the story equipped to deal with heavy matters like conflicts within the fledgling team, resurrecting Superman, and saving the world from certain destruction. Barry Allen cracked wise, Bruce Wayne was a detective, and Superman was a caring and emotional paladin again. One of my favorite moments was Aquaman’s heartfelt lasso-induced testimonial.

It was a superhero film that I could cheer with again.

While the circumstances surrounding Snyder’s departure were tragic, Joss Whedon saved this film for me, with the minor sin of using the John Williams and Danny Elfman themes too much in hope of smashing the nostalgia button for fans.

Joss Whedon’s Justice League is why Zack Snyder’s four-hour-long version of this story is not compelling.

But don’t let Zack Snyder hear you talking that way about his magnum opus…

First, while I’m not a fan of Scott Mendelson, this shot was not necessary: Learn to take some criticism, bro.

Second, I definitely disagree with Snyder on his vision of “grownup” cinema. The difference between movies for kids and adults isn’t simply the injection of violence and nihilism. Adults understand humor and hope leagues more than Zack Snyder gives them credit.


Other FanDome DC film news

The Flash: Barry Allen has a new costume, the Flash will be time-traveling, and there is the promise of multiverse meddling with a tease of Michael Keaton’s 1989 Batman.

Black Adam: I’m glad to see that this is still on the radar. I’m also glad to see (along with the portrayal in Stargirl) that the Justice Society of America is getting more love.

Aquaman 2: Director James Wan mentioned that this flick will be “a little bit more serious, a little bit more relevant to the world that we’re living in today”, which is good considering how superficial the first one was. Fun, but superficial.

Shazam: Fury of the Gods: I’m looking forward to this sequel. The first one was down-to-Earth wholesome comic book fun.


Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

The Thing About Today – February 8

February 8, 2020
Day 39 of 366


February 8th is the thirty-ninth day of the year. It is Prešeren Day is Slovenia, which commemorates the death of national poet France Prešeren in 1849.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Boy Scouts Day, National Kite Flying Day, National Iowa Day, and Ice Cream for Breakfast Day. The last one is typically observed on the first Saturday in February.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1587, Mary, Queen of Scots, was executed on suspicion of having been involved in the Babington Plot to assassinate her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.
  • In 1828, author, poet, and playwright Jules Verne was born.
  • In 1865, the State of Delaware refused to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Slavery was outlawed in the United States, including Delaware, when the Amendment was ratified in December 1865. The state finally ratified the Amendment on February 12, 1901, the ninety-second anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.
  • In 1879, Sandford Fleming first proposed adoption of Universal Standard Time at a meeting of the Royal Canadian Institute.
  • In 1882, Thomas Selfridge was born. As a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, he was the first person to die in an airplane crash and the first active duty member of the U.S. military to die in a crash while on duty. He was killed as a passenger in the Wright Flyer, on a demonstration flight piloted by Orville Wright.
  • In 1910, the Boy Scouts of America was incorporated by William D. Boyce.
  • In 1931, actor James Dean was born. He was the first actor to be posthumously nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
  • In 1932, composer and musician John Williams was born.
  • In 1940, journalist Ted Koppel was born.
  • In 1955, author John Grisham was born.
  • Also in 1955, Ethan Phillips was born. He played Neelix in Star Trek: Voyager.
  • In 1961, DC Comics animation producer Bruce Timm was born.
  • In 1968, Planet of the Apes premiered in New York City.
  • In 1969, puppeteer and writer Mary Robinette Kowal was born.
  • In 1971, the NASDAQ stock market index opens for the first time. The name was initially an acronym for the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations.
  • In 1974, the crew of Skylab 4 returned to Earth. After completing their 84-day long mission, they were the last crew to visit the American Skylab space station.


In 1914, Bill Finger was born. He was the co-creator of Batman.

As an aspiring writer and part-time shoe salesman, he joined Bob Kane’s new studio in 1938 and took a job of ghostwriting Rusty and Clip Carson strips. In response to the success of Superman, the duo conceived the idea for Batman. Finger was responsible for most of the character’s iconic elements, including the cowl, the cape, and the alter ego.

Kane recalls creating the superhero’s vigilante side, but that Finger added the elements of the World’s Greatest Detective. Unfortunately, Bob Kane negotiated the contract to run the character’s stories without including Bill Finger.

Finger wrote many of the early Batman stories, including significant contributions to iconic characters like the Joker, Catwoman, and Robin, as well as elements such as the Batcave, Batmobile, and Gotham City. He also was credited for Ace the Bat-Hound, Bat-Mite, Clayface, Betty Kane (the original Bat-Girl), and so much more.

Finger also made a considerable impact in the worlds of Superman and Green Lantern. He also a screenwriter for both film and television, including the second season live-action Batman episodes “The Clock King’s Crazy Crimes / The Clock King Gets Crowned”, which aired October 12–13, 1966.

Because of the contract that Bob Kane signed nearly thirty years before, those television stories were Bill Finger’s first public credits for a Batman story.

He did not receive official credit on Batman stories or films until 2015, approximately forty years after his death.

He was posthumously inducted into the comic book industry’s Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1999. The Bill Finger Award, established by Jerry Robinson in 2005 and presented annually at the San Diego Comic-Con to honor excellence in comic-book writing, is named for him.

He was the subject of a 2017 documentary film on Hulu called Batman & Bill.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.



The Mystery of the Missing Doctors

The Mystery of the Missing Doctors


Funko Pops are the Beanie Babies of the early twenty-first century.

I say that as a statement of fact, not as a slight or insult. Created in 1993, Beanie Babies were a fad collectible from the late 1990s. They weren’t toys in the normal sense, and are collected more for their trading value and the overall cuteness factor. I have several of them, most of them celebrating milestones in my life because they were inexpensive and heartfelt gifts from friends and family. I cherish them because of those intended purposes.

Funko Pops are very similar. They’re difficult to play with, but they serve as inexpensive gifts for the pop culture fiend in your life. The line spans thousands of characters over a wide variety of franchises and licenses. From a collecting perspective, while they’re certainly not as advanced and playable as standard action figures, they do provide an easy way to celebrate particular fandoms.

I don’t collect a lot of Funko Pops. I don’t have any problem with people who do.

My main point of contention is with the Funko company itself, or rather with how they treat licenses that they create for.


Here it comes: Oh, god, he’s going to talk about Doctor Who again, isn’t he?

Yes, I am.

The franchise hardly needs any introduction. It’s a cultural touchstone that has existed for 56 years with fourteen actors in the title role. There are a lot of collectibles on the market to celebrate this franchise, among them Funko Pops.

But I feel like Funko is doing fans of this show (and their product line) a disservice with their offerings.

Funko Pops based on Doctor Who started hitting shelves in 2015. Thirty distinct Pops were released that year, focused mostly on the revival era of the franchise. At this point, the show was between Series 8 (during which Peter Capaldi debuted as the Twelfth Doctor) and Series 9 (during which Jenna Coleman departed). The revival Doctors were highly represented and the classic era got some love as well. The modern companions were fairly well represented as were the monsters. The TARDIS herself got two releases.

Twelve of the figures – forty percent of the year’s figures – were exclusives to geeky stores (Hot Topic, Barnes & Noble, GameStop, ThinkGeek, FYE) and major conventions (San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) and New York Comic Con (NYCC)). The SDCC Twelfth Doctor in the spacesuit commands over $200 alone on the secondary market.

2015 (Thirty releases, twelve exclusives)

  • Ninth Doctor (x2)
  • Tenth Doctor (x4)
  • Eleventh Doctor (x3)
  • Twelfth Doctor (x3)
  • Fourth Doctor (x2)
  • Sarah Jane Smith (The Hand of Fear)
  • K-9
  • Rose Tyler
  • Jack Harkness (x2)
  • River Song
  • Weeping Angel
  • Dalek (x3)
  • Cyberman
  • Adipose (x2)
  • The Silence
  • TARDIS (x2)

The line slowed down considerably in 2016. Six figures were released and all of them but one were Doctors. Only one was exclusive.

2016 (Six releases, one exclusive)

  • Twelfth Doctor
  • Eleventh Doctor (x2)
  • Tenth Doctor
  • War Doctor
  • Davros

The following year brought a major shift in the line as only three figures were released, and all of them were exclusives.

2017 (Three releases, all exclusives)

  • Clara Oswald (SDCC, later Hot Topic)
  • Rory Williams (Hot Topic)
  • First Doctor (NYCC, later Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million)

In 2018, Funko moved back to six releases. Half of the line was sent to exclusive markets, including to Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC).

2018 (Six releases, three exclusives)

  • Amy Pond (ECCC, later Hot Topic)
  • Thirteenth Doctor (SDCC, later BBC)
  • Vashta Nerada (NYCC, later Hot Topic)
  • Thirteenth Doctor
  • Clara Memorial TARDIS
  • Missy

Finally, 2019 brought five new figures, two of which were exclusives. This year’s lineup was exclusively targeted toward Series 11 of the revival era.

2019 (Five releases, two exclusives)

  • Thirteenth Doctor
  • Reconnaissance Dalek
  • The Kerblam Man
  • P’ting (SDCC)
  • Tzim-Sha (NYCC)

Funko has released 23 figures based on the Doctor, but only 8 Doctors overall. The product line is heavily weighted toward the revival era, with only two Doctors and two companions representing the first 42 years of the franchise’s existence. Technically, Davros could represent the lone enemy from the classic years, but he has also appeared in the revival era which blunts the impact of that figure’s representation.

The problem is that we are missing six Doctors for a complete lineup of the show’s regenerating hero.

Funko has had problems completing lines in the past: Back when they had the Star Trek license, they created Pops for The Original Series, The Next Generation, and Star Trek Beyond. They completed the Enterprise crew for Beyond, but fell short with Next Gen and The Original Series. Specifically, they left out Beverly Crusher and Katherine Pulaski (both women and doctors) and only Kirk, Spock, and Scotty made the cut from the original NCC-1701. The rest of the franchise – Deep Space NineVoyagerEnterprise, the other twelve movies – didn’t get any love at all.

It’s not the only franchise line to fall to the wayside, either.

It would be understandable if Funko didn’t have the money or resources to complete the Doctor Who line, but that doesn’t jive with how they treat other popular franchises. Consider the various chrome sets (Marvel, DC, Star Wars, etc), the flocked versions, the sparkly “Diamond” glitter versions, the Rainbow Batman set (commemorating Batman’s 75th anniversary and Detective Comics #241), the DC Comics Lantern figures (Wonder Woman, Superman, and others became members of various Lantern Corp for a spell, prompting new Funko Pop molds for collectors), and the new Star Wars Skywalker Saga sets (which are really just repainted leftovers).

It also doesn’t pass the smell test when considering how many are coming out this year alone – an entire Mortal Kombat line, Miami ViceThe Dark Crystal, more Star WarsFrozenOverwatch, and the list goes on – and how many are stacked up on store shelves in the meantime. Just like Beanie Babies, these things seemingly reproduce like tribbles.

The evidence is clear. After an impressive debut followed by lackluster follow-up and lack of representation for classic fans, it’s apparent that Funko is failing fans of Doctor Who.


So, what can they do to fix it?

The obvious solution is to create the figures, but given that the market is saturated and (subsequently) distribution is scattershot, big-box brick-and-mortar storefronts are not the best option. I wouldn’t recommend convention exclusives either, since that approach tends to overinflate the price for anyone who cannot make the trip to San Diego, New York, Seattle, or other major conventions. I got lucky when shopping for the First Doctor because I found one on eBay that was missing the NYCC sticker and had a dented box, but not everyone has that.

Funko has worked with widely accessible storefronts such as Hot Topic, GameStop, Entertainment Earth, and Amazon. One option is to sell the missing Doctors through one of those more focused retailers. Another option is to use the online Funko Shop to “pre-order” the figures and judge how many to make. Six months later, distribute the figures to the buyers with a few left over for stragglers (which can by sold via the first option).

If this proves profitable, it could open the way for more companions, more monsters, and more Doctor Who in the Funko line.

Either way, the hole in the collection is painfully obvious. Doctor Who shouldn’t go the way of Star Trek or other incomplete franchise lines. It is a cornerstone and gold standard for science fiction television, and each of the incarnations of the titular hero has a dedicated fan following.

Funko should respect that history and those fans. They should complete the timeline of the Doctor.

Debrief: Atlanta Comic Con 2019

Debrief: Atlanta Comic Con 2019
Atlanta, GA – July 12-14, 2019



Saturday night’s all right for geeking out! Atlanta Comic Con 2019 has come and gone and this year was a blast. My involvement was limited to the panels in one day, but it was a fun day to be there.

After a trip on MARTA and a short walk, everything started with a visit to DougPool7 who was lounging on a beach chair by the ticket lines. I have seen a lot of Deadpool cosplays over the years, but this one really made me laugh.

View this post on Instagram

Deadpool on Vacation! #AtlantaComicCon

A post shared by Michael Falkner (@womprat99) on

You can find some more of his vacation antics on his YouTube channel.

Most of my time and all of my panels for the day involved a Drop of Mikes, which you may remember after the Council of Michaels that we assembled at Dragon Con 2018. The first panel of the day was So You Want to Start a Podcast with Mike Faber and Michael “Howdy” Gordon.

We had a great discussion with the audience as we talked about how to start a podcast, why you’d want to in the first place, and the basics of Podcasting 101. Once again, I promoted Tee Morris and his fantastic reference book Podcasting for Dummies. We also fielded a simple question after mentioning that, in general, no one is going to get rich and famous as a podcaster: “Why bother?”

We were pretty unanimous with the answer: Podcasting is a hobby and a labor of love, and as long as it remains fun, it’s still a worthy pursuit.

All in all, the audience was content with our advice. We fielded a few questions and offered a few more tidbits after the panel was over, and then we joined up with Michael Bailey to walk the con floor for a bit.

The four of us reconvened for The MCU: What Now?, our panel on the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

We had a wonderful turnout for the panel, even after half a row left when we told them that we would be discussing the most recent Spider-Man film. It’s entirely fair that they left, but we knew that couldn’t have an authentic discussion about the future of Marvel in film without including the twists and turns in Spider-Man: Far From Home.

This panel was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a while. The questions were intelligent and engaging, especially from the kids in a pretty diverse audience. There was also a spirited discussion about whether or not Thanos could wield Mjolnir with was quite enlightening. They actually changed my mind after the panel.

From this point, we bid the Fabers adieu and settled in for the afternoon and evening. Mike Gordon, Michael Bailey, and I grabbed some lunch, caught up on all the events since the last time we had been together, and toured the show floor until it closed at 7pm. After that, we settled on a bench in the lobby area and waited for our 10:30pm panel.

It was fun to watch the cosplayers and chat about all things geek – Bailey’s expertise on all-things comics is helpful in filling the gaps in my knowledge – but we were certainly baffled about scheduling a Batman retrospective panel so late in the night.

Regardless, after the awesomeness that was this Black Adam cosplayer, it was time for Holy Pop Culture: Batman at 80.

The Batman panel was pretty fun. Based on the time, we were worried about having an audience, but fifteen diehard Bat-fans (and one dude who wanted a relatively quiet place to catch some shuteye) joined in the fun. Michael Bailey led the discussion from Batman’s origins in Detective Comics through his evolution and rise over the decades to the character’s unfathomable popularity today.

After that, it was time to head home.

I’d like to thank the staff at Atlanta Comic Con for their hospitality and hard work. I’m definitely looking forward to visiting (and hopefully participating) again in 2020. I also extend a huge thanks to the Michaels – Faber, Gordon, and Bailey – for a great day of camaraderie and geeky fun.

Atlanta Comic Con 2019


Atlanta Comic Con 2019
Atlanta, GA – July 12-14, 2019



I will be at Atlanta Comic Con this year! I have three panels on Saturday, so come find me and say hi!


The convention schedule is available now. The list of confirmed guests, performers, and artists is available on the official site.

Atlanta Comic Con takes place in downtown Atlanta at the Georgia World Congress Center.

Note: All schedules are tentative until the convention ends.


Saturday 11:00a – So You Want to Start a Podcast (1 hour)
Room C109
Have you wanted to start a podcast, Or do you have one and just want to talk shop? Well this is the place that will talk about how to create a show, what kind of equipment you will need to start, and where to post your new shows. In this Q&A session we will hope to point you in the right direction.

Saturday 1:30p – The MCU: What Now? (1 hour)
Room C102
The Marvel Universe has been on the big screen now for over 10 successful years, but last year it all came crashing to a halt with a snap of a finger. Now one year later we have been introduced to Captain Marvel and have seen the results of Avengers Endgame, but what’s next? Join the crew from the Earth Station One Podcast as we talk about some possibilities for new directions for existing heroes and some new ones on the horizon. We will be recording this panel live for a future episode of our podcast.

Saturday 10:00p – Holy Pop Culture: Batman at 80 (1 hour)
Room C110
Batman turns 80 this year. Join us as we spend an hour talking about his evolution over eight decades as well as his influence on and presence in popular culture. Holy puns will be kept to a minimum.




Thoughts on Gotham


This post will contain spoilers for the first season of Gotham.



I’m not the typical comic book property fan. I don’t care about canon from book to screen – I’m able to read, and if I wanted to experience the adventures in the pages, I’m more than capable of consuming them – but I do care about consistency within the story itself.

That’s where Gotham has failed. The first season of the show started with such promise, but the weaving plot threads stumbled along the way and betrayed that potential.

The pilot episode premiered back in September with a bang, introducing squeaky clean Lieutenant James Gordon to the gritty and grimy of Gotham City. His first case is the Wayne murders, and we get the clear dichotomy between lawful good Gordon and his partner (and embodiment of the city) Harvey Bullock. The further dynamics established with Oswald “Penguin” Cobblepot defying his employer, up and coming crime boss Fish Mooney (a new character to the Bat-Catalog), and the city’s officials being beholden to the Falcone and Maroni crime families intrigued me.

In the first couple of episodes, the threads were clearly established. I wanted this show, billed as an origin for Jim Gordon, to succeed.

Jim Gordon has always been a great supporting character in my opinion. He’s typically portrayed as a paragon of law whose methods of cleaning up Gotham won’t work, but he can’t violate his moral fiber to personally use methods that will work. Hence, he turns to the man who can do what the law cannot, and we get a vigilante called Batman.

With this in mind, I was excited for this show. Gotham’s Jim Gordon had everything stacked against him from the very beginning: The crime families are in a cold war, and everyone including the police are afraid to go against the status quo and either lose their power or bring that power down upon them. I wasn’t expecting him to clean up the city, since that’s Batman’s job in the next decade, but rather make enough of an impact (and survive long enough) to become the commissioner who enables Batman’s crusade.

The first quarter of the season led me to believe that the season arc would revolve around the mob cold war. Instead, it focused on a considerable deal more, including trying to establish origins for all of the Bat-Villains. Trying to develop all of those threads killed the momentum of the first season, especially in the middle third.



How would I have approached it?

The overarching story should have been about the mob cold war, culminating (as it partially did in the finale) with Fish Mooney having played both sides against each other and Cobblepot having played her, sought his revenge, and stolen her victory to become the new boss of organized crime. Falcone could survive and slink into retirement as he did, and Maroni could remain dead. The entire Dollmaker subplot could have been completely excised, as it just felt like filler to stretch the season and remove Fish from the playing field until the finale.

Under that umbrella, the first subplot could have been Gordon’s efforts to stem the corruption in the police force. I loved his defiance of the mayor and commissioner, and his outwitting them when they tried to silence him by demoting and reassigning him. I loved the commissioner’s attempt to discredit and/or remove Gordon’s threat to his power by setting the Ogre on the detective’s trail.

What I didn’t like was the Barbara Kean subplot.

If the writers follow the comics, which I don’t expect, Barbara is eventually supposed to marry Gordon and start a family with him. The problem is that they have removed any sympathy I have for the character by stripping away the promise of her being an emotional anchor and support for Gordon in a city that stands against him. If they wanted to make her more complex, the troubled backstory they provided sufficient complexity, and they could have removed Gordon’s support by sending Barbara off to work through her issues but still remain sympathetic to the audience and Gordon.

As it stands with this multiple personality/nonsensical drugged-by-the-Ogre-fugue-state storyline, if they choose to reunite them later it will feel artificial. She may or may not have killed her parents in cold blood. A lawful good character like Gordon wouldn’t settle for that. Even if she’s dead after attacking Leslie Thompkins, who should not have been counseling someone with a conflict of interest, she’s still not someone that Gordon would name his daughter after.

Also, where did Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen go? These two could have been fantastic allies to help rally behind Gordon as he stems the police department’s corruption. Instead, they are wasted. So is the subplot about the commissioner’s illegitimate daughter, which Gordon could have used to topple Commissioner Loeb after the Ogre storyline started.

This subplot could have been resolved with a power vacuum in the Mayor’s office after Gordon reveals the corruption and mob ties. District Attorney Harvey Dent, Montoya, and Allen stand with Gordon, and the next season is set up for a subplot with a now scared commissioner secretly teaming with Bullock to find a way to stop Gordon’s crusade. This also opens the door for the typical “Penguin runs for Mayor” storyline.



The second subplot could have been Bruce Wayne’s quest for the truth, which was actually one of my favorite parts of the season even though it was only tangentially related to Gordon’s story. Both he and Gordon know that Pepper was a scapegoat in the pilot, and the investigation could have been handed off to Wayne as Gordon got pulled into the first subplot’s machinations. The investigation could have proceeded pretty much the way that it did, but tightened up with less involvement from Gordon. Bruce earns his “world’s greatest detective” stripes by unraveling the secrets, digging into Wayne Enterprises, and going through the cloak-and-dagger that he and Selina Kyle performed. Sure, have Bruce discover the cave and how his father also fought against the corruption in his own corporate house. But Bruce Wayne’s story should be minimized in a series about Gordon’s origins, and as such, he should have been involved for about only 60 to 75 percent of the entire season’s episodes.

As this subplot ends, Wayne gains an ally against the corporation in Lucius Fox, he and Alfred grow much closer as he recovers from the trauma of the murder of his parents and discovers his new life’s calling, and Selina departs just as she did to join Fish Mooney (in a more meaningful capacity than the twenty minutes in the season finale) before slinking into the shadows after Fish’s death. This sets up a smaller subplot for Season Two where Bruce discovers his heritage, Wayne Enterprises potentially endorses Cobblepot for mayor, and Bruce and Alfred decide to travel abroad and start rallying allies against the corporation. Bring back Sean Pertwee from time to time, but leave Bruce to evolve into the cape and cowl. There are also opportunities for Falcone to return in a limited capacity to provide information (for a price) regarding the Wayne murders.

Finally, each season should focus on evolving one (and only one) Bat-Villain, with the Penguin and possibly (and minimally) Selina Kyle as common threads. The second season could start showing cracks in the good façade of Harvey Dent or perform a longer and more realistic slip into schizophrenia for Edward “Riddler” Nygma. Nygma was best when he was subtly creepy, and by the end of Season One, he lost that quality in the sudden 180 spin into complete supervillain mode, which also removed some of the magic in the series. Even better, remove the schizophrenia and simply make him completely sane and malevolently intelligent. Not every villain needs to have some kind of psychological break.



Overall, Gotham is a mess, but I don’t think it’s unsalvageable. I’ll be tuning in for the first part of Season Two, but I can’t guarantee much more beyond that if it doesn’t start pulling together. The show needs a clear roadmap for every season to help it reach the potential that I still see. The acting is great from many of the starring roles, and they deserve the chance to shine in a tight and coherent story.

Movie Review: Batman Returns (1992)

Batman Returns
(PG-13, 126 minutes, 1992)

Batman Returns is the oft-maligned second child in the Tim Burton-directed Caped Crusader family. Expectations were so high after the first film that, while being an otherwise enjoyable experience, it had no other choice but to disappoint audiences looking for another Batman.

The thing is, this film isn’t supposed to be Batman, and it shows from the beginning with a dark title sequence that tells the origin story of the film’s baddie, The Penguin, to move that element of the plot along during an otherwise useless section of the film. This entry has similar visual styling to the first movie, but the color palette is brighter overall. The sets are better lit and Gotham feels larger and more open with more color added to the shadows and dour grays that dominated the original. This element reaches grotesque levels with Selina Kyle’s apartment, which is dominated in shades of pink to remind the audience (beyond the blatant sexism of Max Shreck) that she is a caricature of the stereotypical female secretary. It’s annoying (and potentially insulting) in its directness, but acts as a deliberate contrast to the strong femme fatale that is Catwoman. It also serves as a setpiece to visually facilitate her destructive transformation. The more lively palette does contrast with the darker, more violent fight scenes in an attempt to convince the viewer of the thematic duality with Catwoman and Batman.

This installment has more of the Burton/Elfman whimsical eccentricity that their collaborations have come to be known for, including sweeping camera pans over highly detailed miniatures with soaring but eerie choral scores. Additionally, the set decoration also retains the art-deco gothic noir mix of the original, melding it with elements of the ’60s camp. All of those exaggerated elements combine with some additional sexual innuendo over the first film to make a still entertaining but slightly lower quality experience. In all honesty, this film has trouble deciding if it wants to be the successor to the 1989 Batman, the 1960s series, or both. That indecisiveness hurts the experience.Regarding the themes and the plot, this film has trouble deciding how to discuss duality. Catwoman’s motivation is to kill Shreck in both revenge and an attempt to reconcile her new identity. Penguin’s motivation makes less sense, as it seems he wants to gain power over Gotham by killing all of the first born sons and becoming a dictator to, in some way, get revenge against his parents and the society that led to his exile. When Batman stops this threat, Penguin resorts to destroying Gotham to destroy Batman. Batman wants to stop both of them, but also wants to redeem Selina through (here it comes…) the power of love. Though good intentioned, that road to hell is in direct conflict with Catwoman’s thread of feminine power and independence. It also smacks of the backward idea that women who go against societal norms can be “fixed” by providing them with strong male companionship.

It repeats a lot of the romantic themes from the Bruce Wayne/Vicki Vale relationship, but removes part of the duality essential to the Batman character by squeezing the conflict between Catwoman and Batman into the shared overcoming of their split identities. They even hang a lampshade on the plot point of giving up the masks, but then reverse course almost as quickly to retain the character elements. In the end, Batman could not defeat Catwoman because Gotham needed Batman more than Bruce needed Selina. If your head is spinning right now, you’re not alone.

At least the movie addresses the absence of Vicki Vale.

In final random thoughts, the insane Michelle Pfeiffer looks a lot like a more modern Burton alum: Helena Bonham Carter. Second, it is never explained how the Penguin’s minions got schematics for the Batmobile. That plot hole is an annoyance. Last, the obvious eye makeup goof when Batman takes off his mask also annoys me. Audiences are smart enough to realize that the rubber mask doesn’t quite cover the space around Michael Keaton’s eyes.

Overall, Batman Returns is enjoyable, but suffers greatly from indecisiveness, both in themes and tones. It wasn’t horrible, but it could have been more.

My Rating: 7/10
IMDb rating: 7.0/10



Schedule for Dragon Con 2014

Now that the full schedule has been released for Dragon Con 2014, I can tell you where I will be as a panelist for this year’s con.



I will be arriving to the convention area on Thursday morning, and will hit up the registration line to get my badge and program. After that…

4pm – Dragon Con Newbies Meetup and Hotel Tour (Marriott A601 – A602)
Want to know the best way to get from one hotel to another? Need to learn where the food court is? If so, come on this walking tour and find out! I will be helping to coordinate this with Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, and Kim McGibony.

5:30pm – Dragon Con Newbies Q&A and Social (Marriott A601 – A602)
Meet fellow first time con attendees and many long time attendees in a casual setting. Ask questions and learn about the awesomeness that is Dragon Con. Again, I will be helping to coordinate this with Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, and Kim McGibony. This event is schedule for 2.5 hours, but it is not required that attendees stay the entire time. Come and go as you want.



10am – Dragon Con 101 (Hyatt Regency V)
Connect with fellow newbies and get helpful advice/tips from several long-time con attendees to get the most out of the Dragon Con experience. Again, I will be helping to coordinate this with Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, and Kim McGibony. This event is scheduled for 2.5 hrs, but it will be a come and go type of panel. I will be leaving about halfway through for the next event on my schedule.

11:30am – Farscape Revisited! (Hyatt Centennial I)
Check in with the stars who played favorite characters. This year’s guests are Gigi Edgley (Chiana) and Lani Tupu (Pilot/Crais). I will be facilitating the discussion with the fans by standing in the center of the room and holding the wireless microphone.

4pm – Quantum Leap 25th Anniversary (Marriott M303-M304)
Every Scott Bakula show and movie is really Sam, still leaping. Discuss. I will be joining panelists Keith R. A. DeCandido and Tegan Hendrickson.



10am – Geek Year 1984: Classic Sci-fi Roll-A-Panel (Marriott M303-M304)
A 20-sided die decides which classic sci-fi TV shows or movies from 1984 this panel will geek out about. For this randomized goodness, I will be joining a large cast of geeky experts including Joe Crowe, Kevin Eldridge, Tegan Hendrickson, Michael D French, Michael Gordon, Melinda R. Mock, and Phantom Troublemaker.

5:30p – Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: No Time For Love (Marriott M303-M304)
Celebrating the 30th anniversary of Short Round, Club Obi Wan, and the runaway mine cart. I will be joining panelists Elizabeth Jones, Jessa Phillips, and Shaun Rosado



8:30am – Batman: 75th Anniversary of Justice (Marriott M303-M304)
It’s an early morning panel! Cramming a month of awesome things about the best superhero ever into a one-hour window. I’ll be joining panelists Mike Faber, Michael Gordon, John S. Drew, Geena Phillips, and Will Price… along with a large cup of coffee.


The rest of the con will be spent catching up with friends and family, watching the costumes that never disappoint, and celebrating all things geek for four days. See you there!

DC2014 logo

Movie Review: Batman (1989)

(PG-13, 126 minutes, 1989)

Batman is, by far, my favorite on-screen comic book hero. Superman typically (and tragically) embodies the best in humanity, but Batman is a man with money, a sharp brain, and numerous flaws. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the character, and his 50th was celebrated on June 23rd, 1989 with a return to the silver screen in Tim Burton’s Batman.

Surprisingly, Batman was not my introduction to the character. My parents bought me the Hot Wheels version of the film’s Batmobile, but I didn’t get to experience Michael Keaton in the cowl until Batman Returns in 1992. After that, I was further introduced to the World’s Greatest Detective through re-runs of the 1966 Batman television series on the FX channel. Since they were such building blocks of my fandom, both the darker version of the knight and the Adam West version hold special places in my heart. 1989’s Batman is a fun blending of the two in an adventure that has influenced nearly every interpretation of the Dark Knight since.

The opening credits elegantly trace the Batman symbol under the moody Danny Elfman score, a move that would be repeated in another epic adventure movie called Stargate in 1994. The Danny Elfman theme is the one that echoes in my brain when I think of Batman, and pairs well with the movie’s gothic art-deco noir style. Tim Burton also pulls a clever bait-and-switch with the film’s opening by showing the audience a family leaving a theater and being held up, echoing the very incident that orphaned Bruce Wayne.

Michael Keaton’s defining turn as Bruce Wayne was controversial at the time, but I love his portrayal. His eccentric oddball millionaire contrasts against the sharp-witted reality of the his alter ego, and it sets the tone of the essential duality between Wayne and Batman. His gadgets are also fantastic, from the batarangs, grappling hooks, and utility belt to the Batmobile itself. The Keaton-era Batmobile is a gorgeous example of the ’80s mixed with the ’60s, from the fins and the exhaust flame to the recent addition of the shields.

Jack Nicholson stars in a role of duality as well, from his standard henchman of Jack Napier to his maniacal and creepy interpretation of the Joker. He takes Cesar Romero’s humorous yet short-tempered character and adds an edge of lethality, easily killing as an example of his insanity. The makeup is a nod to the 1960s, but feels a bit dated in the modern era.

In supporting roles, Robert Wuhl’s is deliciously over the top as journalist Alexander Knox, and he’s a good comic counter to Kim Basinger’s spin on photographer Vicky Vale. Vale should have been a much stronger feminist role rather than a swooning damsel in distress, but that is easily attributed to the era. Jack Palance was also over the top as Carl Grissom, but his scenery chewing became grating in his short scenes. Luckily, his character quickly departed. Additionally, I would have loved to see Billy Dee Williams as Two-Face, but alas.

The last, but perhaps the most major supporting role is that of Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth. Alfred, the Wayne Manor butler, is Bruce Wayne’s adoptive father and Batman’s conscience. In the rather controversial move of compromising Wayne’s secret identity by bringing Vale to the Batcave, Alfred is pushing Wayne and Batman onto a course that neither could do on their own in an attempt to provide a life for his son by reconciling the duality of the Dark Knight. Ironically, that duality is why the relationship with Vale couldn’t work. Gotham needs Batman, as does Wayne, and try as she might, Vale cannot identify with both the man and the bat.

In minor notes, I loved the Bob Kane nod with the bat-in-a-suit ink drawing. I also loved the parallels in the film as noted by Shua of the TechnoRetroDads Podcast when the hosts reviewed the film on its anniversary, particularly those that I need to find on another viewing. When Bruce Wayne is orphaned, he’s grapsing onto a popcorn container. Similarly, when he’s about to reveal his secret to Vale but is interrupted by the Joker, Vale seeks solace in a bowl of popcorn.

In retrospect, the campiness of this film against the darker tone helps bridge the gap between the 1960s Batman and the more modern incarnations, bringing the character full circle from its darker origins to the Nolan/Bale era of films. The movie is dated, but it’s still fun.

My Rating: 8/10
IMDb rating: 7.6/10