May 26, 1998
by Chuck Miller
We finally got the Sci-Fi Channel out my way. I was a little disappointed because most of the stuff on there is crap, but there is one really good thing on Friday night: one of the all-time favorite shows of my childhood, "Kolchak: The Night Stalker." This wonderful series starred Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak, a Chicago crime reporter who somehow managed to run up against a different supernatural menace every week. Chris Carter often cites this program as the main inspiration for his "X-Files." About a year ago, I read or heard somewhere that a new series of novels based on "The Night Stalker" was in the works. Also, Topps was supposed to be coming out with a comic. I have heard nothing further on either of these projects. The worldwide web was useless, though I did find a couple of cool Kolchak websites. If anyone knows anything about this, please clue me in.
Speaking of the web, another interesting document I found there recently purports to be a script proposal for the next Batman movie, "Batman V: The Return of the Dark Knight" by Michael Johnson. It's actually a very good piece of work, much too good to ever be made into a movie. The villains are the Mad Hatter and the Scarecrow; the story itself is quite gritty and violent. Lots of rough language, too. Catwoman makes an appearance, and there are some pretty unambiguous indications of carnal knowledge between her and the Caped Crusader. If it ever did get made, it would be the first R-rated Bat-flick. Not that that's bad. Anything would be an improvement over that sorry mess Joel Schumacher & company treated us to last summer. But if you want good Batman on a screen, you need look no further than the WB Network's "Superman/Batman Adventures," which runs six days a week. Sweet stuff!
Andrew Smith, a/k/a Captain Comics, who does a weekly syndicated comics column out of Memphis, has a new website I urge you to visit. It's fun and informative and has lots of links to other sites of interest. You can find it at http://members.aol.com/capncomics/.
I don't know if you ever read WIZARD. I do from time to time, but it's a pretty sad excuse for a magazine. I like the posters and stickers and other little doo-dads, but I have to hold my nose every time I buy a copy. Almost half of each monthly issue is taken up with the Wizard Comics Price Guide which places ridiculously overinflated values on old comics. No dealer I know of charges anywhere near the prices they dream up at Wizard. To me, the whole idea of old comics being worth outrageous sums of money is repugnant and anyone who helps feed that notion is a serious moral cripple. I'll admit I feel this way because high prices keep me from owning all the old comics I'd like to have. About 25 years ago, I remember seeing a copy of ACTION COMICS #1 for sale for $1,500. Quite a bit of money for a bundle of rotting newsprint, especially in the early 70s, and well beyond the means of a little kid. But today I could and probably would raise such a sum for such a purpose, if the opportunity came up. Not bloody likely. You know how much that same rotting bundle is listed for in Wizard? Try $135,000 on for size! The house I live in costs less than half that much! From $1,500 to 135 grand in 25 years... Even taking inflation into account, that's a hell of a mark-up. Similarly, I once had the opportunity to buy a copy of SHOWCASE #4 (the first appearance of the Barry Allen Flash) for $400. Unfortunately, as an 8-year-old kid, I didn't have access to that kind of cash. Today, that same book would cost $20,000 or more. Insanity!
Wizard also has an unhealthy interest in "collectible" action figures, but you don't want me to get started on THAT.
Anyhow, another regular feature is the "Report Card" by Wizard editors Brian Cunningham, Andrew Kardon, Greg Orlando and Mike Searle. Here, they give little capsule reviews of current series and grade them A to F. Pretty silly, and I would ignore it altogether, except they appear to have some kind of vendetta against Alan Grant. Grant is a damn fine writer; his SHADOW OF THE BAT is by far the best of DC's monthly Batman books, but the geniuses at Wizard thought it only merited a C, or possibly a D, I don't recall for sure. And Grant's LOBO, which has always been played for laughs and never taken itself seriously, rates an F from this humorless crew. (Lobo is a takeoff on mindlessly violent characters like Wolverine and several others -- characters Wizard just LOVES.) I don't know why they have taken such a dislike to Grant. God knows they're always ready to lavish praise on lesser writers. Perhaps Grant failed to kiss their asses in some way.... Well, here's MY report card: Alan Grant isn't perfect, but in my gradebook he has a solid 3.5 GPA. Wizard, on the other hand, doesn't even GET a report card because they HAVEN'T DONE ANY WORK! In fact, they are EXPELLED, and if I ever see them on this campus again I'm calling the cops...
Also by Alan Grant: BATMAN: THE ABDUCTION (Bats are snatched by little grey aliens?); BATMAN/PHANTOM STRANGER; and coming soon, BATMAN:THE SCOTTISH CONNECTION; and hopefully coming out within my lifetime, BATMAN/JUDGE DREDD IV: DIE LAUGHING. And if you like comics with interesting ideas instead of moronic, blood-drenched slugfests, check out Grant's ANARKY miniseries from last year. It deals with some heavy psycho-socio-political themes and still manages to be fun at the same time. I'd like to see Wizard do that. If they could take a little time out from worrying about how much a dealer should be able to screw out of a gullible collector for a Kenner Batman toy from 1984 they might actually learn something...
GRANT RULES, WIZARD SUCKS! GRANT RULES, WIZARD SUCKS! Keep repeating this until Wizard goes bankrupt.
Today's installment of useless information focuses on the celebrity connection. Which superheroes were originally drawn to resemble which movie stars?
Captain Marvel was supposed to look like none other than Fred McMurray! You will no doubt remember McMurray best from the 60s TV show "My Three Sons," by which time he looked like anything but superhero role-model material. But in the early 40s he was a dashing leading man, and that's who artist C.C. Beck modeled the Captain after. Cap's features morphed a bit over the years and the McMurray connection was lost, but if you take a close look at the first few issues of WHIZ COMICS you can see it plain as day.
The face of Hal Jordan, the second Green Lantern and future homicidal maniac Parallax, was modeled by artist Gil Kane after the virile visage of then-youthful heartthrob and future spaghetti sauce and popcorn kingpin Paul Newman.
Speaking of Green Lantern, here's one from the weird and probably meaningless coincidence department: The Golden Age Green Lantern's alter-ego was originally going to be called "Alan Ladd." One of the editors didn't like the sound of the name and it was changed to "Alan Scott." Not long after, a young fellow by the name of Alan Ladd began to make a name for himself in Hollywood.
And here are some strange ones: The character Han Solo in Topps' STAR WARS comics is drawn to look like "Indiana Jones" himself, Harrison Ford, while Luke Skywalker is a dead ringer for voice actor Mark Hammill, who portrays the Joker on WB's "Batman Adventures." Princess Leia appears to have been inspired by Debbie Reynolds' and Eddie Fisher's daughter, Carrie. I wonder why on earth they decided to do that...
I had this column all finished up when I found out to my utter horror that this is the last Harbinger until August! Well, all good things must come to an end, but sometimes they start back up again. I hope to see you all again at the end of the summer. I plan to keep on reading the comic books, and I hope you'll do the same. For current news and views while I'm gone, check out Captain Comics website (see above). If you'd like to get in touch with me for any reason, you may e-mail me at the Harbinger's address, which appears elsewhere in this issue, and they'll see that I get it.
I hate long goodbyes, so until we meet again, remember: with great power comes great responsibility, criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot, and, due to a necessary impurity in the power battery, your ring is powerless against anything yellow.
Have a good summer!