Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Spock: Vampire-Slayer

"More badass than any sparkling vampires since 1966."

That's a great line. Furthermore, the red shirts simply cannot cut a break. Spock, cooler than vampires and red shirt-slayer.

Honestly, how I really wish Spock was a Twilight-killer.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Star Trek TOS S1 Ep9: Dagger Of The Mind

Star Trek: The Original Series returns in all its glorious and vibrant splendor. The remasters continue to be something to truly behold. A documentary on the Season One Blu-Ray set discusses returning Star Trek TOS to its intended glory.

It was no small order and the folks involved from the re-scoring of the music to the clean-up on prints and modifications of contrast really can't be thanked enough. Purists might be a little chaffed by the effort in spots, but without it Star Trek would never have looked this astounding. The breathtaking science fiction series is made all the more beautiful by the upgrade. It is one of the science fiction series that was truly deserving of the technical overhaul. It looks out of this world. There really is no series, for me, that has captured science fiction ideas, adventure and character the way the writers, directors and actors pulled it off here. The series was far ahead of its time and remains a marvel to watch. Thanks to the high definition restoration this series received it could run head to head with anything on television today. It really is like seeing it new for the first time.

Following the unsettling adventure of Miri, pre-dating an atmosphere reminiscent of the ghostly world of Charlton Heston's The Omega Man [1971], we return with Star Trek: The Original Series, Season One, Episode 9, Dagger Of The Mind. Captain's Log Stardate 2715.1.

The U.S.S. Enterprise is delivering Infra-Sensory Drugs to the Tantalus penal colony and the attention of Dr. Tristan Adams.

Captain James T. Kirk enters the transporter room and finds the red shirts are unable to beam down supplies to the penal colony. The problem is obvious to Kirk. The security shield around the colony must be lowered.

Kirk kindly suggests his men brush up on "penal colony procedures." As Kirk exits, one box of Classified Material arrives. Inside is a man – an escaped prisoner.

Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise simply depart the penal colony airspace following delivery of the supplies. Kirk admits he would have enjoyed meeting Adams.

Kirk and Dr. Leonard Bones McCoy discuss the concept of the penal colony as something of a "resort" by the standards of the contemporary Trek universe. Bones begs to differ, but Kirk tells Bones he's "behind the times." The content of Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic might describe me in a similar manner. Well into the Season One now, there is a natural rapport developing between the key cast members that adds to the pleasure factor of each episode even when the entry isn't entirely successful.

The Tantalus penal colony transmits to Kirk that a violent inmate is missing from their facility. The ear pieces that allow communications for both Uhura and Spock are notably large and despite the advancements in sizing down technology there's something infinitely cool and stylish about Star Trek tech. While unlikely such devices would be that large in scale today, you have to submit the look of Star Trek TOS really never disappoints and somehow manages to look as advanced today as it did in the 1960s. Space suits, phasers, communicators. Yes, nothing seems to age to the point of criticism when it comes to Star Trek technology. Consider the films and television series that have come and gone that feature gadgetry that seems positively dated and utterly laughable. It's a credit to the imagination of the creators and the designers that they laid the groundwork for timeless tech.

A red shirt arrives on the bridge for additional security. Only keeping his back turned to any who might enter is not a sound policy, but then, of course, this is a red shirt. So, as expected, the red shirt goes down in a heap as the prisoner, Simon Van Gelder, arrives demanding asylum with Kirk at phaser point. He pleads for Kirk's assurance that he be protected. Kirk replies, "No promises."

The sneak attack of the always reliable Vulcan neck pinch and Spock quickly takes control of the situation. Kirk reroutes back to Tantalus.

In sick bay, Bones is performing a physical. Van Gelder attempts to speak his own name to Kirk, but something neurally prohibits him from speaking it without undergoing great internal pain and duress. Gelder was a director of the colony and worked with Adams. Gelder refuses to go back, but his tirade is eventually sedated by Bones.

One of the many successes of Star Trek TOS was its casting. Whether over the top or not in its dramatic underpinnings, the long list of guest contributors really do their part to sell the story no matter how improbable the idea. Van Gelder is played with mad relish by Morgan Woodward and the concept of suppressed or concealed memory is certainly not outside the scope of possibility.

When Kirk returns to the bridge Spock informs him the man in sick bay is indeed Dr. Simon Van Gelder, an associate of Adams, assigned to the colony six months ago. Curious?

Kirk contacts Tantalus whereby Adams insists the Doctor was performing neural experiments on himself prior to attempting them on the prison population. Bones enters and whispers to "Jim." "That doesn't quite ring true." You know things are going well with cast chemistry when Bones refers to the Captain as Jim. Bones dubs the penal colonies – "cages." Bones can't put his finger on it, but after examining the patient he simply does not believe Adams.

Kirk reminds Bones that Adams revolutionized prisons over the course of twenty years and wonders why he would lie. Spock steps into the debate, an always logical choice for the voice of reason between the classic sci-fi triumvirate. The Superego, the ID and the Ego. "I suggest you ask Dr. Adams if he wants Van Gelder returned."

Adams is clearly a polished manipulator and suggests to Kirk that Van Gelder receive the best medical attention should there be a location closer than Tantalus. Bones is basing his assessment on a hunch and years in the medical profession.

It's worth mentioning that this particular sequence, although meager, between Kirk, Spock and Bones is one of the true highlights of the installment. It's a symbolic moment regarding the evolution of their relationship as it develops throughout the series.

This extended passage from author David Gerrold's The World Of Star Trek really speaks to the moment and the many exchanges that occur between the holy sci-fi trinity of colleagues and friends throughout the series. "Understand the contrast here: Spock prefers logic over emotions. McCoy prefers emotions over logic. But each is in a position where they must stifle part of who they are in order to fulfill their duties aboard the ship."

He adds, "Perhaps each of these characters recognizes the dilemma that the other is in, and more than anything else, this could be the reason for the unspoken affinity between them." Without question there is a mutual respect and affection for one another even after heated debates and battling at loggerheads over a given crisis or subject. Together, the trio often hammers out the best possible solution. The tension and the spark is what results in the best option weighed by the Captain.

Gerrold continues, "They are united also by a deep-seated regard for the Captain." This is evidenced as Bones backs down from his emotion in the aforementioned scene. Bones' relationship with the Captain "is one of deep affection and warmth-an old, tried friendship." Also in evidence is Spock's "strong feelings of loyalty and respect for Kirk. The Vulcan betrays himself in this respect time and time again."

The Freudian analogy has certainly been discussed ad nauseum throughout the history of Star Trek. I don't pretend that's a new thought, but it remains forever fascinating to me. Gerrold adds to this thinking. "McCoy and Spock are symbolic opposites." He points out, as evidenced in the bridge scene, "Kirk's job is to be a decider." Spock and Bones are his "chief advisors." "As such, they will represent the two aspects of every decision he will have to make - especially the difficult ones that will affect other people's lives."

Gerrold's conclusive thoughts in this train of thinking are sound. "Spock represents Rationality, McCoy represents Compassion.... They symbolize Kirk's internal dilemmas." Gerrold is spot on. Spock and Bones "dramatize" and articulate these internal struggles for Kirk and the crew. The World Of Star Trek is an insightful book and worth seeking out in any viable second hand bin you might find.

But, yes, respect and loyalty are indeed at the core and central to the established relationship of Kirk, Spock and Bones throughout the series. Politically and socially, the series and these incredible characters continue to have much to influence. Their impact is profound as they continue to remind us and inform our culture of these important attributes.

Kirk and Dr. Helen Noel prepare to beam down to Tantalus. When Kirk sees Noel he pauses. There is a history. There is the suggestion she is but one of his many sexual conquests. She is a red, hot smoking babe with a body built like a Cadillac. Funny thing is Kirk never placed the faced with the name when Bones first mentions her. This was clearly nothing more than a fleeting physical exchange following a chance meeting at the science lab Christmas party. I give you Dr. Helen Noel.

I must say that women have been liberated substantially since these good, old days and it's a crying shame too [from a purely selfish perspective]. The producers and creators knew how to cast these women and pick their outfits better than any casting department on the planet. By God, if Dr. Noel isn't proof that there is a God then I just don't know.

Arrival on the planet and a speedy elevator to the colony below ground sees Kirk and Noel fall quickly into one another's arms. Gosh, William Shatner had THE job of a lifetime.

Kirk discovers communications to the Enterprise will be limited if the security shield remains active. Noel, Kirk and Adams share a drink. Kirk is introduced to one of Adams' assistants, Lethe [played oddly by Susanne Wasson], who describes herself formerly as "malignant" and "hateful." There is something almost automated about her behavior. Her emotions are suppressed in much the same way her bad past memories have been erased. Something more has also been altered in the brain pattern rendering the woman cold and somewhat unresponsive. It's a bit like a mental ward given heavy doses of medication to suppress emotion a la One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest [1975].

It's worth noting that Lethe is a perfectly appropriate name for the woman as she represents the overarching theme of the entry as penned by one very smart S. Bar-David.

Through the use of the name Lethe, the writer weaves in the concept of Greek mythology as noted in a recent Cult Faces post at John Kenneth Muir's Reflections On Film/TV. Lethe, one of the five rivers of Hades, the river of forgetfulness, not only suggests the decent into Tantalus as akin to a descent into hell, but also speaks to a mental descent into madness. Lethe is literally defined as concealment or forgetfulness. This is a central, operating theme on Tantalus for all who submit to the journey into Adams' world.

Director Kurt Wimmer took a similar idea and ran with it for the film Equilibrium [2002] and the concept was handled beautifully in Babylon 5, Season Three, Episode 4, Passing Through Gethsemane [1995] guest starring Brad Dourif and, believe it or not, directed by one Adam Nimoy.
On the Enterprise, in sick bay, Dr. Van Gelder mentions a neural neutralizer that piques the interest of both Spock and Bones. Meanwhile on Tantalus, Adams takes Noel and Kirk to the neural neutralizer room that neutralizes brain waves. As he exits he asks the operator about the machine. The near lifeless, stoic-faced operator is clearly the recipient of its effects exhibiting little emotion. Adams refers to Kirk as the "ancient skeptic." Noel is captivated by Adams' work and makes every effort to excuse any interest by a suspicious Kirk to learn more. She even tells Kirk such efforts have been experimental for some time and that Adams has "not created a chamber of horrors here." Her assessment is clearly unscientific and based solely on her affection for Adams and a reputation that precedes him.

Adams explains Van Gelder was harmed in the neural neutralizer room while self-administering his own experiment.

Later, Spock reports to Kirk that he may be in danger. Adams leaves the room just prior to Kirk's communique to offer Kirk the continued illusion of trust. Noel scoffs Spock's suggestion they might be in harm's way. Kirk and Noel will spend the night and investigate [each other] further.

Spock probes Van Gelder's tortured mind using the Vulcan mind-meld. This is the first official implementation of the Vulcan technique. The Vulcan mind-meld is a terrific storytelling device that requires very little visual overhead, technical production or budget. Van Gelder submits calmly to Spock's methods. He explains how Adams can reshape the mind with his device. Spock's mind-meld is always so intimate, almost sensual as a rush of emotion floods through his own mind through the link.

In The World of Star Trek, Gerrold describes the event as a Vulcan technique that required "physical contact" or to be a "short distance away." The greater the distance "the less clear and distinct the impressions received."

Kirk visits Noel requesting her technical expertise on the inmates' behavior. Instead of behaving like a science professional, she suggests Kirk has visited her room for extracurricular activities. Noel is certainly a looker, but she also has a bit of the black widow in her.

It is late and Kirk submits to a neural probe with only Dr. Noel as his monitor and filter for safety. He can only hope her expertise behind the knobs is as impressive as her expertise between the sheets. Of course, my assessment is pure speculation.

With Noel's aid, Kirk commences testing under the neutralizer. Noel suggests he is hungry and when the device powers down he's famished. Kirk is concerned regarding the effectiveness of Adams' device Adams.

Kirk and Noel test further but the unit is sabotaged by Adams while Noel is restrained.

Adams penetrates Kirk's mind suggesting he would sacrifice his career for Noel out of love. Adams turns up the intensity like a dagger to the mind.

Returned to his room Kirk has been reduced to a love slave. But Kirk inexplicably [because he's Kirk] pulls it together and suggests Helen take the air duct so they can turn off the security field. Kirk is taken for another mind "treatment" by Adams' henchmen. Somehow Kirk manages to avoid a vegetative state.

On the Enterprise, Spock is more than alarmed thanks to the information obtained by the Vulcan mind-meld coupled with the fact he has not heard from the Captain.

Fortunately, Noel turns off the master voltage long enough to shut down power so that Kirk can leap into action with a quick karate chop to Adams' neck. Power is restored, but damage to the electric grid allows Spock to beam down.

When Helen finds Kirk she is greeted by some significant make face time. Spock stands amused.

Adams is now dead, a victim of his own devices. Unattended he is destroyed, while Van Gelder returns.

Bones muses with Spock and Kirk. "It's hard to believe that a man could die of loneliness."

After such a remarkably strong start to Star Trek: The Original Series, the show hits its first speed bump with Dagger Of The Mind. The entry is less the dagger and more like a soft butter knife. Director Vincent McEveety seems to have agreed.  "That (Dagger Of The Mind) was the most forgettable one I've done.  It's so forgettable I can't remember anything, except where I shot it.  You get 'em in every series and you can't say, 'Look I'm sorry, but I don't want to do this one.' They say, 'Tough, buddy.  It's yours.' The story seemed awfully forced and hokey to me" (Starlog Magazine #144, p.90).  McEveety may be a bit harsh, because despite its shortcomings and with the gift  of time, Dagger Of The Mind still has its moments. We do get the wonderful character triumvirate discussed with razor-sharp precision by Gerrold earlier. Nevertheless, the sum of those compelling moments cannot compensate for a less than convincing tale. We do get an extremely worthy female guest and some Vulcan mind-meld, but a good mind-meld, a smoking set of legs with an ass that won't quit aside it's simply not quite enough to raise the bar on S. Bar-David's script. In good conscience and with sound mind this may be my least favorite of the first season to date particularly hot off the heels of Miri also directed by Vincent McEveety. But again, it's Star Trek: TOS and there's plenty of science fiction that has come and gone that would be envious all things being relevant.

Dagger Of The Mind. Writer: S. Bar-David. Director: Vincent McEveety.

Dead Crewman: 0./ Dead Crewman To Date: 10./ Babe Alert: 1./ Babe Alert To Date: 10.

Babe Alert: Marianna Hill [1941-present]. [Dr. Helen Noel]. Hill was born Mariana Schwarzkopf and is a cousin to General Norman Schwarzkopf, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the 1991 Gulf War under President George Herbert Bush. She appeared in the Elvis Presley film Paradise, Hawaiian Style [1966], the same year the sex kitten appeared in Dagger Of The Mind. Hill also filmed with Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter [1973] and The Godfather II [1974]. She is also notable for the wonderful TV series My Three Sons, Hogan's Heroes, Batman and Love American Style.

Writer footnote: S. Bar-David [1924-2004] was the pen name for Shimon Wincelberg. Wincelberg is best known for penning The Reluctant Stowaway, the pilot for Lost In Space. He established the substantive tone that was the first season of Lost In Space. He scripted or co-wrote the first five episodes including The Derelict, Island In The Sky, There Were Giants In The Earth and The Hungry Sea as well as Invaders From The Fifth Dimension. Along with Dagger Of The Mind, Wincelberg penned Season One, Episode 16, The Galileo Seven, one of my childhood favorites from Star Trek: TOS. According to Wincelberg in Starlog Magazine #159 (p.72) he was not happy with the end result here and once again employed his pen name. "I found the finished production unpleasant, mainly due to the direction." He also added apparently there was some hostility toward Lost In Space. "While I was waiting to meet Gene, his secretary mentioned that some agents had the nerve to suggest writers who worked on Lost In Space!"

Friday, January 27, 2012

Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward

I heard you were all feeling a little stiff today. I thought I'd get your attention to stand erect, but a woody is better than being wooden.

Yes friends, it's FAB FRIDAY! It's time for all things glorious from the world of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.

What better way to honor this illustrious and truly sacrosanct day than a triple threat visit to the world of Thunderbirds and the fabulous ladies extracted from the world of Anderson. Who better to entertain us on this sacred day than Sylvia Anderson herself, the voice of Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward [2039-present]?

Sylvia Anderson [1937-present] is best known as half of the Anderson creative team along with her former husband Gerry Anderson. They were married from 1962-1975 whereby Sylvia exited the partnership prior to Year Two of Space:1999.

If Lady Penelope were real she would be Sophia Myles or Sylvia Anderson. Her original autobiography, Yes M'Lady [1996] was later reissued with updated material as My FAB Years [2007] including her work on the Thunderbirds [2004] film directed by none other than Jonathan Frakes, Star Trek: The Next Generation's Number One himself.

The never shapely Lady Penelope [always thin as a wooden rail] would be portrayed on film by the strikingly curvy, ever bodacious, absolutely fabulous, herself, Sophia Myles [1980-present]. Funny enough, both Anderson and Myles were born in London. Myles would make a number of cool genre film appearances including Underworld [2002], popular Doctor Who episode The Girl In The Fireplace [2006] featuring Tenth Doctor David Tennant, and Outlander [2008] starring Jim Caviezel.

As far as the character we honor here today, Lady Penelope was born with the proverbial silver spoon. It's true. I know it's not politically correct in today's climate to embrace the wealthy, but despite riches once upon a time we still loved her.

Like Sylvia [who assisted in fashion design work for both UFO and Space:1999], Penelope was indeed a member of the British high society and a fashion icon on the surface, but underneath the designer clothes was a fierce British agent, a true warrior with nerves of balsam that would make even James Bond blush.

Based at the stately Creighton-Ward mansion, complete with underground river route, Penelope is often backed by her driver Aloysius 'Nosey' Parker, her servant and partner-in-crime. Parker is essentially to Penelope what Kato was to the Green Hornet, or what Robin was to Batman or better yet his butler, her own personal Alfred Pennyworth. Yes, the importance of Penelope's Parker cannot be discounted. Parker served time in prison and is one of the world's greatest safe crackers. That's right, if you can't beat them join them. Parker is a sparkling example of true redemption. It's yet another good reason to love Lady Penelope.

Lady Penelope is easily identified by her iconic six wheeling Rolls-Royce, the bright pink FAB 1. The 007-styled vehicle comes complete with machine guns, bullet-proof glass and water skis. She also owns a yacht dubbed FAB 2, a prize-winning racing horse named FAB 3 and an oceangoing sea cruiser called the Seabird.

Anyway, that's Lady Penelope, a chip off the old International Rescue block [of palm tree wood - that is]. This follows a long list of Anderson ladies including Gabrielle Drake, Wanda Ventham, Barbara Bain and Catherine Schell. Like those ladies, Lady Penelope [a.k.a. Sylvia Anderson] was a true babe out of the woods and made from it too.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Case Against CGI II

... and speaking of Robot. First it was the original Cylon and now this poor fellow. Times are tough all over.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dick Tufeld [Voice Of Robot] [1926-2012]

The voice of Lost In Space's Robot, Dick Tufeld.

Three years to the month after the passing of
Bob May [the man inside Robot] and days apart, the robust, unforgettable and authoritative voice of Robot has passed away. Dick Tufeld established one of the most iconic voices in science fiction history with that instantly recognizable voice of The Robinson family Robot.

Tufeld brought to life many classic lines including "DANGER WILL ROBINSON! DANGER!" and offered the perfect foil for Will Robinson and Dr. Zachary Smith over the course of three wild seasons of Irwin Allen's Lost In Space [1965-1968]. Billy Mumy remembered him as a "cool guy." Angela Cartwright recalls him to be a "true gentleman" who would be missed.

Tufeld was an actor/ narrator and announcer, but will be forever remembered for his beloved role as Robot. Robot was a character brought to life by a two component act. Bob May wore the suit and Tufeld provided Robot his memorable voice. Apart from the Robot character Tufeld also narrated for the series.

Additionally, he narrated for Irwin Allen's The Time Tunnel [1966-1967] and Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea [1964-1968]. Tufeld also contributed to the classic Fantastic Four [1978] cartoon. He also reprised his role for the film Lost In Space [1998]. He was 85.

It was a pleasure to enjoy Tufeld's voice in my youth. It gave me great pleasure to watch Lost In Space through syndication. Like the classic series, Tufeld's voice is timeless and will always be fondly remembered by fans and non-fans alike. Dick Tufeld may be gone, but his voice will never be silenced.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wizard's Top 50 Comic Book Movies [2003]

A weekend spent rummaging through the old comic book boxes turned up an old Wizard magazine [1991-2011] and a stroll down films of superheroes past.

Honestly, there's nothing more fun than a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning alone in your basement with box loads of comics surrounding you. Actually, that all sounds like pure geek and it probably is. I was neck deep in The Avengers, Fantastic Four, The Uncanny X-Men, Guardians Of The Galaxy, The Omega Men, West Coast Avengers, The Incredible Hulk, The New Mutants, Justice League Europe, Metal Men, The New Teen Titans, Namor and on and on. I was drowning in classic comic books. It's great to look back at any of these old titles. These titles were one of a kind at one time.

This in turn led me to my local comic shop, which I rarely frequent, because I don't collect any of the new books and simply don't have the time. I spoke with one of the proprietors and he was a terrific fellow geek like myself. I said, "Remember when we used to collect these books, there was only one X-Men title and it was fantastic!" He replied, "Yeah, now they have 50 books. It's crazy. I mean take Deadpool [pointing to the shelf]. There's three titles for a so-so character at best." Clearly it's a money grab out there. Of course things changed many years ago. I remember things beginning to change dramatically in the very early 1990s. As he mentioned, "Today, it's more about the artwork. Story is very secondary. It's hit or miss." I think that's generally true. Our conversation dovetailed into comic books on film and we both winced at how often these films simply "dumb it down" and veer away from the source information discarding the book material that made characters work in the first place. We now have Ultimate storylines. There were very strong opinions shared on the state of the industry, but he was very rational about the topic and quite frankly it was hard to disagree. Green Lantern, Hulk, X-Men - creators have certainly taken their liberties, but sometimes too much so.

Nevertheless, my visit led me to the purchase of The Avengers The Yesterday Quest. It's vintage era John Byrne with an Avengers assembled team I quite enjoyed back in the day. Unfortunately, many of the characters in that story won't be appearing in next summer's film. That film will certainly be more faithful to the original set of Avengers characters.

The fellow to the left played Daredevil in The Trial Of The Incredible Hulk [1989]. Can you believe it? Anyway as I dug my way through the books passing X-Factor and Excalibur, I found an old issue of Wizard. It featured the 50 Top Comic Book Movies Of All Time. I thought I'd post them as it might generate some discussion. The article is from August 2003. It's amazing how things have changed in nearly ten years and how many more proper superhero films have been created since. The look of this Top 50 including the Top 10 alone would appear markedly different. I know personally Batman Begins and The Dark Knight would be in my top two spots. Enjoy the list friends.

50. Batman & Robin [1997]./ 49. Steel [1997]./ 48. Red Sonja [1985]./ 47. Virus [1999]./ 46. Fantastic Four [1994]./ 45. Superman IV: The Quest For Peace [1987]./ 44. Conan The Destroyer [1984]./ 43. Captain America [1991]./ 42. Tank Girl [1995]./ 41. Supergirl [1984]./ 40. The Crow 2: City Of Angels [1996]./ 39. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze [1991]./ 38. The Crow 3: Salvation [2000]./ 37. Superman III [1983]./ 36. Batman Forever [1995]./ 35. Barb Wire [1996]./ 34. Judge Dredd [1995]./ 33. Return Of Swamp Thing [1989]./ 32. Bulletproof Monk [2003]./ 31. Men In Black II [2002]./ 30. Spawn [1997]./ 29. The Punisher [1989]./ 28. Howard The Duck [1986]./ 27. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III [1993]./ 26. Mystery Men [1999]./ 25. Batman Returns [1992]./ 24. Swamp Thing [1982]./ 23. Batman [1966]./ 22. Daredevil [2002]./ 21. Timecop [1994]./ 20. Conan The Barbarian [1982]./ 19. The Mask [1994]./ 18. Blade II [2002]./ 17. From Hell [2001]./ 16. American Splendor [2003]./ 15. The Crow [1994]./ 14. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles [1990]./ 13. Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm [1993]./ 12. Men In Black [1997]./ 11. Akira [1989]./ 10. Blade [1998]./ 9. Batman [1989]./ 8. The Rocketeer [1991]./ 7. Ghost World [2001]./ 6. X-Men [2000]./ 5. Road To Perdition [2002]./ 4. Superman [1978]./ 3. Superman II [1981]./ 2. Spider-Man [2002]./ 1. X2: X-Men United [2003].

Pamela Anderson. 'Nuff Said! Whew! That's quite a list and requires a little commentary here. I've seen a good many of these films and some of the selections catch you by surprise here. Keep in mind, this is a comic book list not a superhero list. I have to literally stop myself to separate the two.

If you're going to put anime in the mix you can certainly include Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind. It's seeds were established in a Hayao Miyazaki comic book and would personally notch higher here than Akira for me. Even His And Her Circumstances by Gainax was a splendid animation series based on a manga comic. So including one comic-based anime feels a little random.

We all know the Batman series began with Tim Burton. Today, Burton would be pushed further down the list and wouldn't crack the Top 10. Michael Keaton's Batman was good too, but the Burton Batman came just a little too early in his career. If given the reins today, his Batman would be stronger. Remember Red Sonja? She cracks the Top 50 here. That's crazy! Still, those Conan pictures tend to hold up. Speaking of crazy, there are film here that really fall well off my radar like Steel, Virus, Tank Girl and Barb Wire. How does Barb Wire beat Supergirl? Okay, it is Pamela Anderson, but Helen Slater is nothing to sneeze at. Barb Wire was absolutely panned too. How soon we forget. Conan The Destroyer is easily a better film.

I enjoyed The Crow, but wonder if it isn't quite the superior film I once thought it to be. Shortly thereafter came director Alex Proyas arrived with the superior film Dark City.

Dolph or Thomas Jane? This may be the only list to feature the earliest incarnations of the Fantastic Four and Captain America as well as the first The Punisher starring Dolph Lundgren. I'm not sure any of these films remain on the list, but that first Punisher film was far superior to the third one, Punisher: War Zone, which was atrocious.

I still have yet to see Howard The Duck. We've got the much maligned Howard The Duck and Swamp Thing making the list as well as a Jean-Claude Van Damme picture. I never really think of the goofy Hollywood pictures like The Mask, Mystery Men, Bulletproof Monk or Men In Black, but, again, this is a list for comic book films.

Road To Perdition and American Splendor are just terrific films based on comic book sources. I really have to stop thinking about men in tights [boy, that just doesn't sound good] or capes when it comes to comic books. I'm a victim of my youth and I wouldn't have it any other way. We didn't have a world filled with dark and gritty graphic novels. We had superheroes in tights. Well, that's not entirely true. There were certainly other companies that delivered some terrific science fiction or monster-based stories.

Spawn was a good film with a limited budget, but the Todd McFarlane hero never really spawned a love affair for me. Admittedly, it was a little after my comic hey day.

The always impressive Ron Perlman. The first two Blade films were solid and to be honest the Guillermo Del Toro directed Blade II is the superior film and should probably be in the Top 10 here.

Teenage Mutant NinjaTurtles. Ugh! I could never do it really.

In the top 10, director Joe Johnston of Captain America [2011] acclaim makes the list and deservedly so with The Rocketeer. Ghost World is one of those pictures that simply wouldn't have registered, but again I'm thinking capes and tights.

The X-Men films were solid. Though, to be honest, they move so far away from the source material and continuity that it makes it difficult for me to have deep affection for them or embrace them entirely. They are fine pictures and at least they tell a story with good narrative structures. Along with X-Men and Spider-Man, Daredevil quietly continued a strong wave of superhero films at the turn of the century.

Ultimately, I think the list gets it right on the Top 4 considering the potential selections in 2003.

Additionally, Wizard truly rips some of the made for television heroes. Those titles include: Captain America [1979], Captain America II: Death Too Soon [1979], Dr. Strange [1978], Generation X [1996], a shelved pilot for Justice League [1997], The Incredible Hulk Returns [1988], Trial Of The Incredible Hulk [1989], Death Of The Incredible Hulk [1990], Nick Fury [1998] and Vampirella [1996]. Wizard can slight the Bill Bixby-directed Hulk films all they want, but no one can call into question Bixby's passion for the series and commitment to the character that was David Banner on television.

The Wizard list is fair and sticks to its running theme of comic book films circa 2003. Its got me thinking about my own selections. So much has come and gone since the list was published in the now defunct magazine. Batman Begins. The Dark Knight. Watchmen. Elektra. Hellboy. Green Lantern. More X-Men. New Fantastic Four films. Thor. More Punisher films. Hulk films. Where is Dick Tracy on this list? Any others come to mind? What would your Top 20 be?

Next Issue!: The Sci-Fi Fanatic Top 20 Comic Book Films [featuring Capes and Tights].

Friday, January 20, 2012

Superhero Humor

So bad it's hysterical. Still, that bike is a dandy.