Monday, September 13, 2010

Finally: the Brave and the Bold returns!

The last new episode aired in the middle of April, and it's been a long, dry summer of reruns... but the good news is that the Emmy-nominated Batman: The Brave and the Bold returns with all-new episodes this Friday at 7:00 PM on the Cartoon Network. They'll be wrapping up the season-wide subplot with the two-part "The Siege of Starro", as Batman battles the legendary space starfish who has taken control of practically every costumed hero on Earth.

For those of you who haven't been tuning into this terrific series, it's a valentine to long-time Batman fans like myself who feel that, after watching the Dark Knight get darker and darker in both the comics and two cartoon series, we needed a break from the doom and gloom, a return to the fun Batman of the mid-60's and early 70's before he became a sullen psychotic. Well, producer James Tucker, who has been mulling this kind of Batman as far back as the last season of The New Batman Adventures (when he supervised the storyboarding of the Dick Sprang-inspired segment of "Legends of the Dark Knight"), gave it to us and good.

This new series steeps itself into the Silver Age history of DC Comics with the kind of wild stories that do honor to Gardner Fox, Julius Schwartz, John Broome, Robert Kanigher, Jack Kirby, and especially Bill Finger (whom many credit as the real mastermind behind Batman). If you've come here looking for that psychotic bully he's evolved into, just keep marchin'. Batman is the Caped Crusader in this one, a Sprang-inspired creation, with the talented Dietrich Bader as a cross between the raspy Kevin Conroy and the straight-laced camp of Adam West (who actually appeared in an episode with Julie Newmar as Thomas and Martha Wayne!). And while the series itself never takes itself too seriously, there are the dark moments that fans of the Dark Knight clamor for, such as an episode where Batman tracks down the man responsible for his parents' murders (courtesy of Batman: the Animated Series' own Paul Dini).

And let's not forget the musical episode, "Mayhem of the Music Meister", a story with flavor straight out of the 1960's Brave and the Bold comics, featuring Neil Patrick Harris as the Conducter of Crime, with a fantastic score that could persuade Andrew Lloyd Webber to don a cape and tights.


This series has one last full season to go, and I'm hoping before it disappears we'll get that Music Meister action figure. I'll be the first in line for it.

Anyway, put it in your DVR... this Friday, Cartoon Network, 7:00 PM EST.

Monday, September 6, 2010

De Boss' Bookshelf: True Story Swear to God #13, Bone in Full Color

In between running the Whoosier Network, working on the latest MARK AND DEE episodes (more to come very soon!), and actually doing some paid artwork for a change, I've been trying to catch up on the few comics I buy, and we have a couple of real stand-outs from my own library.

After a long hiatus involving a fall down the stairs and a debilitation in his drawing hand, Tom Beland is back in action on a semi-regular basis with his autobiographical comic series True Story: Swear to God. To tune you in very quickly to this witty, delightful, and sometimes heartbreaking series, Tom is the former writer and parttime cartoonist of a small Napa Valley newspaper who, on a wild set of circumstances, got a free trip to Disney World and met the woman who would change his life forever, Puerto Rican radio star and author Lily Garcia. They conducted a long distance romance for months before Tom decided that his heart was calling him to Puerto Rico. After many trials and tribulations in adjusting to the culture shock, Tom eventually married Lily with all their families gathered in Puerto Rico, an event depicted in TS:STG #12.

In the latest issue #13, Tom is having dissfunction issues and seeks medical advice. Doctor after doctor run tests that come back negative, and Tom's frustration at not being able to please Lily is growing by leaps and bounds, as well as his own well-founded fears that his problem may be cancer-related (both his parents died within mere months of each other).

Eventually, one of Lily's medical experts on her talk radio show suggests to Tom that he try Viagara. Tom gleefully depicts his adjustment to the medication, while never trivialising the serious undercurrents his problem could have for his marraige. It's excellent adult reading, and rates a *****+ on De Boss' 5-star meter.

Jeff Smith's Bone (full-color edition) Vol. 1-9: Though I've read the original comic book run from practically the very beginning, now that I have the entire collected series in 9 volumes, and now in full color, I thought now would be a good time to revisit the epic tale that gestated in the five-year-old mind of Columbus, Ohio resident Jeff Smith and became the epic adventure that has sold millions of copies all over the world.

Inspired by Walt Kelly's Pogo, Carl Barks' Uncle Scrooge adventure stories, and J.R.R. Tolkien's Ring trilogy, Bone is the tale of three curious cartoonish creatures, the Bone cousins, and the adventures they encounter after they are run out of Boneville following one of the scheming Phoney Bone's flim flams, utilizing the not-so-bright Smiley Bone as his henchmen. Of the three, Fone Bone is the most stable, a heroic dreamer whose chance encounter with the beautiful human Thorne leads him and his two cousins into a world of talking animals, dragons, good friends, and despicable enemies.

While I realize Smith is finally done with this epic tale he has spent a lifetime creating and that he is moving on to other projects, such as his current series Rasl, I'm hoping that one day he's going to have another itch to scratch, and that we'll eventually return to Barrelhaven (or maybe even Boneville itself!) and have yet another great adventure with the lovable Bone Cousins and all their friends. ****** out of 5.