Warner Re-Releases Burton’s Batman for 25th Anniversary

Batman 25th Anniversary

This November, to mark the 25th Anniversary of Batman (the one directed by Tim Burton in 1989), Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release a new Blu-ray, the Batman 25th Anniversary Two-Disc Edition. List price is $24.98.

They’re putting it in the “studio’s distinctive new sleek Diamond Luxe collector-style packaging” and adding a new documentary, “Batman: The Birth of the Modern Blockbuster”. That addition is promised to be “a look at the phenomenal marketing, extensive merchandising, and franchise foresight that set the template for the next 25 years of tentpole pictures.” In other words, we wouldn’t have the successful blockbusters we do now without this film, starring Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Jack Nicholson as the Joker, and Kim Basinger as V-V-Vicki Vale. It’s an Oscar winner, too, for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (Anton Furst and Peter Young).

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Both Katy Perry, Katy Keene Playing With Female Archetypes

Robot 6 had a short article about the video embedded below. It’s a comparison of singer Katy Perry’s many costumes with similar outfits worn by Katy Keene, a model character created by Bill Woggon and first published by Archie Comics in 1945.

Of course, because the internet, it’s phrased as asking whether Perry is “ripping off” or “copying” Keene. Well, no. While the comparisons are quite amusing, it isn’t much of a stretch for a female performer to dress up as a catwoman or a bride or a mermaid or a jungle girl (or much imagination from artists to wrap a character in a flag or have her straddle a rocket).

Some of the comparisons are quite stretched and demonstrate simple fashion trends — for example, everyone in the 80s had a big red jacket and in the 50s, a big crinoline skirt. And no matter what we do, leopard print keeps coming back. Still, I found it fun to see the costumes. (Also, the video maker doesn’t know his right from his left.)

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A Comic That Inspires: Erika Moen’s “I Want to Live”

Depression and suicide have obviously been on many people’s minds lately due to Robin Williams’ passing. In thinking about such subjects, Erika Moen, author of the encouragingly positive webcomic Oh Joy, Sex Toy, has created the affecting (I cried) and powerful strip “I Want to Live”.

Erika Moen's "I Want to Live"

In keeping with her previous project, the autobiographical DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary, this comic is heavily revealing. It may be the best thing I read today.

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In Clothes Called Fat

Vertical has recently brought several of Moyoco Anno’s manga to our shores, including the historical portrait Sakuran: Blossoms Wild and the biography-inspired comedy Insufficient Direction. Previously, we’ve seen the dark comedy of a woman looking for happiness in Happy Mania, the magical kids of Sugar Sugar Rune, and the savage comments on beauty and popularity of Flowers and Bees.

It was reading that last one that made me realize why it is that, while I appreciate Anno’s work, I don’t love it. It’s because she’s so cruel to her characters. Everyone in her books suffers, often due to their own refusal to honestly realize their flaws. That’s uncomfortable. And yet, at least all these books are available here. I doubt a revealing story aimed at women like In Clothes Called Fat would otherwise have made it to English, without a creator with a significant amount of name recognition here, which would be a shame.

Every woman can relate to obsessing over weight and eating, since so much value is put on appearance. In Clothes Called Fat is the story of Noko, a fat woman (although the way she’s drawn makes it clear that “fat” is in part cultural; if the story was told here, she’d be much larger) who uses food to handle stress and loneliness. The first few pages establish the character — she hates her body, feeling like she’s “wearing a leotard of flesh”, but keeps eating, because that’s a moment when she’s not thinking about her size and how other women denigrate her for it. In psych-speak, she’s swallowing her feelings, along with a lot of food.

Anno’s art style normally features slender women who resemble fashion illustrations, with exaggerated, overly made up features. Those women here are the villains, those who casually make Noko feel worthless. That they are external voices for her internal worries only make it worse. She already knows that guys don’t find her attractive.

She does have a boyfriend. They’ve been together for several years, but his motives for being with her are as abusive as her co-workers, and she eventually finds out he’s cheating on her. In Clothes Called Fat is an authentic, raw portrait of what it’s like not to fit in and hate yourself, although don’t come into it expecting redemption or a positive outcome. That’s the American take, where we expect Noko to just get some willpower, stand up for herself, lose the weight, and find a better guy.

Instead, events bleakly spiral into the increasingly outrageous, with paid dating, a weight-loss clinic, criminal co-workers, banishment, paranoid plots, and a very lost, self-loathing central figure. The most interesting visual change, to me, is how accurately Anno draws a bulimic Noko — she thinks skinny = pretty, but her face is haunted, with bags under her eyes, demonstrating that starving yourself is no solution. As with several other of Vertical’s recent josei manga releases, this is for adults only, given the drawings of naked women used to drive home the subject. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

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Just Because We Have Computer Lettering, You Shouldn’t Fill the Page With Text

Coming out on Wednesday from Action Lab Entertainment is the first issue of a new series, Midnight Tiger, by Ray-Anthony Height, co-written by DeWayne Feenstra. This is the first panel on page 3, taking up 2/3 of the page.

Midnight Tiger by Ray-Anthony Height

While a new series and concept needs a certain amount of exposition, this is way too much text to dump on the reader. It’s physically hard to read, with those large caption boxes and dialogue balloons. I haven’t read the whole comic, but this doesn’t even seem like necessary information. It’s just setting the stage. Creators, don’t do this.

There’s no editor credited, so I’m guessing no one took a look at the book beyond the creators. Sometimes, a separate pair of eyes and some additional professional guidance can be useful. It’s hard to tell any more whether that’s a service publishers provide.

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Muppets Most Wanted — The Statler and Waldorf Cut

Muppets Most Wanted is out on home video tomorrow. To mark the date, Disney has released this bonus feature, in which Statler and Waldorf present their own edit of the movie.

It’s nice to see the characters so much like I remember them — this gag, although predictable, is exactly what they would want to see in the movie.

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Amazon Continues Blocking Hachette Over Ebook Pricing

The dispute between Amazon and Hachette is in its third month with no signs of resolution, although as it drags on, more statements are being made and news articles written with dire statements of how horrible this all is.

Amazon logo

The latest actual news is that Amazon put up a website called Readers United that currently contains only an open letter making it clear that this is all about making ebooks cheaper. Amazon wants to sell more Kindles, while publishers want to avoid driving customers away from print. There’s a whole lot tied up in this debate, from nostalgic appeals to the way things used to be done to avoidance of change to fear that cost-cutting will make a wide range of books even harder to produce to arguments over who’s going to control book culture to debate over what a fair percentage is for authors to receive.

Many authors have lined up behind the publisher, perhaps because that’s what they’re comfortable with. Any position that tries to argue with a huge company on the basis of “loyalty”, though, is doomed to fail — talk money, that’s the only language they understand. And that’s why Amazon has become so successful. People like buying conveniently for less. Trying to change that behavior on the basis of high-minded ideals is a sisyphean uphill struggle. Many agree with Amazon that ebooks should be much cheaper than print, and under $10 is a good price point.

Since those writing these articles also tend to be authors, or sympathetic to them, we hear a lot about Amazon’s business pressures and struggles, much less about how much of a huge international conglomerate Hachette is part of. They’re doing fine recently, compensating for any potential negative earning effect from Amazon by “the integration of Hyperion, and the takeover of Disney’s distribution activity”, leading to an overall rise in revenue.

I tend to take a Darwinian approach: bookstores (with their carefully curated selection and service) are going out of business because many people value other choices (price and a wider selection) more. Once they disappear, and people get tired of not having the help to find good new reads, then they, or something like them, will reappear, perhaps for a new audience. Look at what happened to vinyl records, now with increasing sales as hipsters rediscover the virtue of warm sound.

It is interesting to see what figures Amazon released as part of this slanted open letter, and what they mean. Andrew Wheeler has a great post on what Amazon might be omitting and why, as well as noting some contract nastiness.

By the way, Amazon briefly used similar tactics for Warner video products. Their new target? Disney. Muppets Most Wanted comes out on DVD on Tuesday, but Amazon hasn’t taken preorders for it for weeks, which eliminates information on audience interest that the studio might find helpful. From the NY Times article:

Preorders are a way for an entertainment company to gauge demand. Consumers have increasingly been trained to want something the moment it becomes available, so if they do not have the ability to order ahead, the companies worry, the customer will not buy a product when it hits the market.

It’s true in my case, particularly since I didn’t enjoy the movie as much as I hoped I would. Making it harder for me to get means it’s easier for me to skip it, or wait for an eventual sale.

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Batman: Assault on Arkham

Out on Tuesday is the newest original animated DC universe film, Batman: Assault on Arkham.

How you feel about it will likely be influenced by two key facts about the movie: It’s set in the same world as the Arkham Asylum video game, and it’s badly named, since Batman barely appears. This is a Suicide Squad movie, and some will find that very exciting, while others will be near-disgusted.

I fall in the latter category. I liked the original comic series, written by John Ostrander with a sense of morality and an exploration of various dilemmas around such. The series and concept now, though, is just about forcing bad guys to do even badder things under the threat of being decapitated explosively.

I’ve never played the video games, so I can’t speak to how authentic this is in relation to those, but the tone here feels a lot like the DC New 52 revamp, from the character designs to the relentless grim feeling and violence. (Plus, hints of sex, as Killer Frost is seen topless from the back; like the other movies, this is rated PG-13.) That certainly has its audience, particularly among gamers. Artistically, Batman: Assault on Arkham looks the same as the other recent DC films —- workable, but nothing outstanding.

I did like the TV credit-style intros of the various characters doing despicable things. That way we get both their villain and “real” names, for the following members of “Task Force X”:

  • Killer Frost (voiced by Jennifer Hale)
  • King Shark (voiced by John DiMaggio)
  • Black Spider (voiced by Giancarlo Esposito)
  • Captain Boomerang (voiced by Greg Ellis)
  • KGBeast (voiced by Nolan North)
  • Harley Quinn (voiced by Hynden Walch)
  • Deadshot (voiced by Neal McDonough)

Batman is once again the incredible Kevin Conroy, and Troy Baker does a good job of being creepily insane as the Joker. Matthew Gray Gubler is the Riddler, while I was pleased to hear CCH Pounder as Amanda Waller. Unfortunately, while I was thrilled to see her (and in her old look) running the team, we’re given no reason for her being so mean and bloodthirsty. Other than that’s how everyone is in this world.

She sends the team into Arkham Asylum to kill the Riddler, while Batman is looking for a dirty bomb that the Joker has hidden. That accounts for his few scenes, where he threatens various criminals to get more information. The rest of the time, the lightly structured plot just gives villains more chances to be bad guys. I don’t find wallowing in this fun; clearly, others disagree.

Special Features

A nine-minute sneak peek at Justice League: Throne of Atlantis is illustrated with comic art, footage from this and previous movies, and very preliminary sketches. Writer Heath Corson (the go-to guy for these things, since he also wrote this movie and Justice League: War), creative director of animation Mike Carlin, and voice director Andrea Romano also comment. Corson says that Aquaman is different because they don’t have a character [other than him] with a core of anger and frustration —- what DCU is he reading?

The movie’s commentary is by Carlin, Corson, and executive producer James Tucker.

“The Joker’s Queen: Harley Quinn” featurette (14 minutes) describes her as the funny and sweet “bad girl next door”. Geoff Boucher, writer for Entertainment Weekly, explains how the character was created, with help from Mike Carlin. This would all have been much more interesting to hear from Bruce Timm himself, but he appears only in photos. Paul Dini participates. Original voice Arleen Sorkin doesn’t. Adam Glass, writer of the Suicide Squad comic, does, and he spends a good amount of time justifying his recent take on the character in print, including his thoughts on the Joker/Harley Quinn/Deadshot triangle.

“Arkham Analyzed: The Secrets Behind the Asylum” spends 27 minutes on the setting. After the movie, I couldn’t subject myself to more of this. Too bad we didn’t get anything about the other characters that are assembled here or the history of the Suicide Squad concept. There are also four cartoon episodes included: Justice League Unlimited: “Task Force X”; Young Justice: “Infiltrator”; Batman: The Brave and the Bold: “Emperor Joker”; and The Batman: “Two of a Kind”. (The studio provided a review copy.)

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