Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Time To Retire It: “Reagan Democrat”.

Time To Retire It” (or TTRI) will be an occasional feature of this Blog. It will highlight words, expressions, phrases, or just “things” that, while once useful or meaningful, have outlived said meaning or are no longer applicable.

During this election season, for the first time, I’ve begun to bristle at the phrase “Reagan Democrat”. And not necessarily for political reasons.

It was coined to describe the apparent phenomenon of traditionally Democratic voters casting their votes in large numbers for Ronald Reagan in the presidential election of 1980. A phenomenon it was, as voting patterns were established that continue to this day.

However, it’s now “Time To Retire It” because, regardless of any longstanding party affiliation, if you voted Republican in 1980and have reliably voted in the same way in most elections for the past 28 years – you are not a “Reagan Democrat”… you are a Republican. And it’s time the media (and those voters themselves) recognized this.

If you comment, please be civil and politely non-partisan. This is more a commentary on our language that it is on anything political. There are plenty of other places to go for that stuff!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Realizations: The Brother (and Sister) Hood of Writers.

Sometimes, in a flash, you just realize something. This is one of those times.While continuing to devour the amazing television series known as LOST, I have now completed the Second Season DVD collection. (I have begun watching LOST exclusively on DVD, and am enjoying it immensely. (Find out how HERE!) I’ve decided to avoid inadvertent spoilers by skipping the Audio Commentary tracks until the season set is complete – and then going back to replay them after absorbing the season as a whole.

My failure to do this earlier resulted in the commentators spoiling a MAJOR turning point for the characters of Michael, Ana-Lucia, and Libby that occurs later in the season. As (LOST creator) J.J. Abrams is my witness, that will NEVER happen again! So, there…

In the midst of the commentary track for the episode “The Whole Truth”, with the episode’s writers Elizabeth Sarnoff and Christina M. Kim – as well as the talented actors who play the Korean couple Sun and Jin – it struck me just how much of a “brotherhood” (…or how much of a like mind) we writers can be.

And, yes, with my continued script writing for Gemstone Disney comic books, I’ve offered myself (and accepted) membership that that particular fraternity… even if I’m the only one to recognize it.

The moment of realization of this like-mindedness among writers came for me when Ms. Sarnoff quoted a line that she wrote for the episode that was CUT.

As the character of Ana-Lucia woke up from sleeping on the ground (on a search mission to find a hot air balloon and a gravesite – to verify the claims of a suspicious stranger. If you don’t already know, don’t ask… it’s complicated!), and Sayid is watching her, she was supposed to have said:

What? Am I drooling?”
I thought this was a great line, and am sorry it was cut. But, beyond that, I realized that writers tend to remember Things-They-Wrote-That-Were-Cut-For-Various-Reasons.

There are probably too many instances to mention, but if you ever hear similar DVD commentary tracks for episodes of THE SIMPSONS and FAMILY GUY – or even the DC Comics Animated Series produced by Warner Bros. – that feature episode WRITERS, they are always recalling, and sharing with the audience, bits of theirs that were cut or modified from their original proposed or submitted form!

And, guess what? I tend to do that too!

In any discussion you will ever have with me on the UNCLE SCROOGE stories I’ve written American English scripts for, such as “Uncle Scrooge Meets the Synthezoid from the Deepest Void” (US # 370) and “The Hard-Shelled Sage of Duckburg” (US # 375), I will invariably mention my bits that got CUT or ALTERED… because, for some reason, they continue to stick with me long after publication.

And, if I may use the entirety of DVD audio commentary tracks that feature writers as evidence, television scriptwriters do the very same thing, long after airing.

For what it’s worth, I enjoy that sort of thing. It gives me further insight into the practice of creating TV series that I have an avid interest in… and it gives me deeper insight into the writer’s craft and the challenges of the process that they (…and I) routinely face.

So, watch some DVD material with the Audio Commentaries “ON”, and learn more about the LOST, SIMPSONS, FAMILY GUY, BATMAN, or JUSTICE LEAGUEthat never was”.

And, when Gemstone begins offering Optional Audio Commentaries for their comic books, I’ll be there to tell you a few of mine!
…It’s apparently what we of the Brother-and-Sisterhood-of-Writers do!

“It’s Getting Late Early!” – See Ya ,Yanks!

It’s Getting Late Early!” said baseball’s living legend Yogi Berra. And so it did for the 2008 New York Yankees.

Sunday evening, September 21, 2008, Yankee Stadium closed for baseball business, and America watched the spectacle and pageantry on ESPN’s national broadcast.

But, during his turn as a guest on the telecast, Yankees TV broadcaster Michael Kay said something interesting. I don’t have the exact quote, but it was to this effect…

At the beginning of the season, no one looked at September 21 as being the ACTUAL “LAST” baseball game to be played at Yankee Stadium. It was assumed, as it has been for the previous THIRTEEEN SEASONS, that the Yankees would play a certain number of post-season games at their familiar home at 161st Street and River Avenue, The Bronx.

But, the amazing Tampa Bay Rays and the grudgingly superior Boston Red Sox combined to shut the Yankees out of the American League Eastern Division title and out of the American League Wild Card berth. The Yankees consecutive post-season run came to an official end last night, September 23, with a Red Sox win to eliminate the Yanks from Wild Card contention.

So, the unthinkable happened and September 21, 2008 DID mark the final Yankees baseball game to be played at what has been called “The Cathedral of Baseball”… and once again we learned just how brilliant a man is Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, as it did indeed “Get Late Early”!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Duck-o-nomics 101

So, why does your copy of the DVD set Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald Volume 3 (1947-1950) have more in common with a barrel of crude oil, than with that SIMPSONS or FAMILY GUY set it may share a DVD shelf with?

(For the details my discovery of the sudden, unusually high selling prices on Amazon.com for this item that’s been around for just over TEN MONTHS, please click HERE!)

The forces and the manipulation of “The Collectors Market” move in mysterious ways. And, to save John McCain the trouble of appointing a “9/11 Commission” style panel to root out the cause of this surprise spike in the price of DVD Ducks, I’ll take a shot at analyzing it right here.

(…Though, to give Mr. McCain his due, the “Fundamentals” of this DVD set – meaning the Donald Duck cartoons contained therein – ARE “strong”!)

Let’s begin by examining the data found on the “Certificates of Authenticity”, found within each set of the series.

The Chronological Donald Volume 1 (1934-1941) had a run of 165,000 copies.

The Chronological Donald Volume 2 (1942-1946) had a run of 125,000 copies – 40,000 fewer than Volume 1.

The Chronological Donald Volume 3 (1947-1950) had a run of 50,000 copies – 75,000 fewer than Volume 2, and a whopping 115,000 fewer than Volume 1.

With a diminishing press run comes an (intentionally or otherwise) manufactured “secondary market” to satisfy any remaining demand, resulting in prices for this 32.99 List Price set going for 89.98 to 159.99 on Amazon.com – at least on September 16, 2008.

For comparison purposes, I checked on
Volumes One and Two, and found the following as of 7:30 AM on September 17 (Gosh, is this what it’s like to be a futures trader?):

Volume 2 was still available “In-Stock” (48 copies “Used and New” for a slight discount off of list price).

Volume 1 was no longer “In-Stock” and was listed as “Available from These Sellers” with 55 copies “Used and New” – ranging from 11.00 for “Used – Not in Original Packaging” to 148.88 for “Collectable – Like New”! Though, overall, prices skew far more reasonable on this set than on Volume 3.

The final question is how much of a press run will The Chronological Donald Volume 4 (1951-1961) have? Will it be less than even Volume 3’s 50,000 copies? The trends seem to indicate this.

So, if you have any interest in The Chronological Donald Volume 4 (1951-1961) and comic book fans could possibly have such an interest, you might want to pick it up on or around its release date of November 11, 2008, while you can get it for a discount off list, rather than pay a premium at a later date.

Oh, I lied… that wasn’t the “final question”, this is:

If there was any similar manipulation of the already rare Donald Duck comic book pictured above, instead ofDuck-o-nomics”, would George H.W. Bush (“Bush 41”) have called itVoodoo Economics?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Get It While (or IF) You Can! DVD Review: Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald Volume 3 (1947-1950)

Posting my pre-written review of this DVD set was on the agenda for quite some time. Already, it has made the rounds from my e-mailing list, to fanzines and APAs for which I write my column THE ISSUE AT HAND, Customer Reviews at Amazon.com, and the like… and it was a nice thing to “have in the bank” for when I didn’t have a great deal of time to update this Blog with original material. (You know… kinda like tonight!)

The fact that the next and final volume in the series is due for release less than two months from the date of this posting – November 11, 2008 – was also a deciding factor.

But the real shocker was to come tonight, when searching online for an illustration of the set to accompany this post.
I found that Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald Volume 3 (1947-1950) IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE AS AN IN-STOCK, NEW ITEM AT AMAZON.COM!!!
As I write this, it is available from Amazon.com only through third-party sellers. And this set that retailed for 32.99 in December, 2007 now ranges in the “secondary market” from 89.98 to 159.99 on September 16, 2008!

There were 50,000 such sets produced, per the “Certificate of Authenticity” enclosed with the package, and the scarcity resulting from about ten months of sales is the most likely factor for such a jump in price. At TIAH Blog, we neither endorse nor condemn this practice of Limited Editions and secondary markups – but are rather taken aback at the fact that such a thing can occur in so brief a period. …And how can I do the same thing for my house?

The message in all this would be to get Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald Volume 4 (1951-1961) at retail or less when it is released in November – before its price is artificially inflated by its built-in scarcity by next August. Sure, there’ll be too much Chip ‘n’ Dale for most folks to stomach, but there will be some very good cartoons mixed in as well… and a surprise for Donald Duck comic book fans that (…if things properly come to pass) you’ll be hearing more about! YES, that’s a teaser!

Meanwhile readers, I hope you either already have Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald Volume 3 (1947-1950), or can still obtain a copy at a reasonable price. Here’s the Review… Enjoy!

Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald Volume 3 (1947-1950)
(Released December 11, 2007) The Usual Long DVD Review by Joe Torcivia.
Thanks to this set, I have a new “hero” from the age of classic theatrical animation – and an unlikely one, at that… Director Jack King!

I won’t pretend to be an expert on King’s career, but I DO know that he was with Disney in 1929, then directed some very early Warner Bros. Cartoons for Leon Schlesinger (Buddy, Porky Pig, and others) and ended up at Disney after that. What little I’ve read about King’s efforts, over the years, paints him as an uninspired director – and it is probably as unfair to judge him strictly on his early WB output as it would be to judge the great Friz Freleng on his similar early, almost primitive achievements.

But, credible persons as varied as Donald Duck comic book legend / Disney animation writer Carl Barks and Disney Treasures’ “Official Host” film historian Leonard Maltin seem to share this opinion of King. Among Barks’ remarks in Thomas Andre’s 2006 book “Carl Barks and the Disney Comic Book”, page 56, were: “Old fashioned” and “Played it safe.” Maltin, on a previous Disney Treasures set, The Chronological Donald Volume 2 (1942-1946), describes King, as “An old hand [who] may not have been the most inspired director at the studio…

However, looking over the animated shorts on this particular set, Jack King is THE “King” of this collection. Of the 30 shorts included here, 23 are by revered Duck director Jack Hannah, and 6 are by King, with one remaining “Donald and Goofy” short directed by Bob Carlson. The entirety of Disc Two’s 14 shorts is Hannah’s.

The odd thing is, despite the criticism of his former writer Carl Barks, and others; King’s Donald Duck shorts are the most varied, the most entertaining… and, ironically, the most “Barks-like” of the collection! To be sure, Jack Hannah’s cartoons are well-crafted and very entertaining as well, but Hannah took a great series and steered it into repetitive formula and (…at least when compared to King’s efforts in this grouping) mediocrity.

Jack Hannah apparently “fell in love” with pitting Donald against cute little opponents – and did so far too often. This is certainly the case within the window of this collection. Bootle Beetle, Spike the Bee… and, in what is strictly my own personal opinion, the near-ruination of the series by Chip and Dale… who the aforementioned Leonard Maltin says were pitted against Donald over 20 times! …Yes, he said “…over 20 times!”

Admittedly, each such Donald Duck short, if taken individually and on its own merit, is cute, funny, and entertaining… but, when you consider the impact on the series as a whole to continually “work this angle” to the exclusion of all other things that could involve and engage a character like Donald Duck, the series, alas, became the poorer for it. All but three of the 14 shorts on Disc Two feature Bootle, Spike, or the rapidly chattering chipmunks. To my mind, that is far too much repetition at the expense of the varied richness that could have been Don’s world in animation, as it was in comic books!

But, while Hannah’s Duck suffered ‘Munk Madness, Bee-trayal, and (dare I say it) Beetle-Mania, Jack King’s Donald came as close as the animated Duck had ever come to the splendor of his comics world.

In chronological order King has Donald do the “perilous sleepwalking bit”, with Daisy going through ducky-hell to protect him. Sure, Max Fleischer did it better with Olive Oyl in the POPEYE classic “A Dream Walking”, but this was good fun too!

Donald becomes a world class crooner, to Daisy’s consternation.

Exhausted Don attempts to sleep in the “great outdoors”, with a superb twist ending!

Still sleepy from King’s previous cartoon, we witness Donald go to extraordinary lengths to silence an incomprehensibly loud leaky faucet. Leading to what appears to be King’s last two Donald cartoons before the Duck completely succumbs to the sensibilities of Jack Hannah… and they are simply two of the BEST!

The classic “Donald’s Dream Voice” is probably the most innovative Donald cartoon of them all, playing on (…and with) Don’s defining attribute – his VOICE! This is the “voice pills” cartoon that nearly everyone has seen sometime or other, and it succeeds wonderfully (…even though we wonder why Donald doesn’t simply buy a “lifetime supply” of the wonder drug – perhaps it was outlawed by the FDA, or something!).

King’s final outing is “The Trial of Donald Duck”. In my opinion, the best and most “Barksian” of any Donald short I’ve ever seen – and I’ve not seen them all, mind you. Donald is brought before a judge, sued by a crooked restaurateur. The story is told in flashback form, with BOTH Don and his accuser acting in ways that are less than “on the up-and-up”, but Don ends up as more of the victim than the perpetrator in the end. Don loses the case, but prevails in another good twist ending. With some minor editing, this could easily have been a “ten-pager” in WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES!

After making this cartoon, King appears to have retired, as best as I can piece events together from Internet snippets, leaving this Duck fan to wonder what might have been.

Lest this look like a valentine letter to Jack King, I must point out that Jack Hannah had his share of superb moments beyond Bootles and Bees – not to mention ‘munks! There are a few fun-fests with Huey, Dewey, and Louie (…though, not nearly enough) an ant-invasion cartoon that you’ll never see on TV or anywhere else, two great appearances by a rascally mountain lion… and then there’s “Clown of the Jungle”.

Clown of the Jungle” just may be the zaniest, outright funniest Donald Duck cartoon ever!!! Imagine if the more sedate, though still quite volatile, post-war Donald met the early forties wild and out of control version of Woody Woodpecker, or the Do-Do Bird from Bob Clampett’s “Porky in Wackyland”… and that just barely describes what goes on here. You’ll have to see it for yourself! It doesn’t even look like a Disney cartoon, but more like the product of another studio entirely!

Despite the appalling lack of ANY sort of voice acting credit for Clarence “Ducky” Nash in any of the cartoons – though other credits abound by this time, Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald Volume 3 (1947-1950) is a great collection, and is highly recommended by your humble reviewer… aw, even the Chip and Dale cartoons are “kinda good”
…IF you’re in the mood for THREE characters you can’t understand!

To my review, I should also add that Jack King directed most of the superb “Donald joins the Army” series of shorts that were released during World War II. Though he did not direct the distinctly memorable “Der Fuehrer’s Face”, King’s work DID include the hilarious “Donald Gets Drafted” and “The Vanishing Private” – both of which were largely written by Carl Barks. These appeared on Volume 2 and the “Walt Disney Treasures: On the Front Lines” set.

And, just to put another plus in Jack Hannah’s column, Hannah directed the uproariously fast paced “Dude Duck”, to be released later this year in Volume 4. (Pictured Below… Oh, did I say get it?!)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Our Stadium “SEE-YA!” Ends Not with a Bang…

SEE-YA!” is the catchphrase New York Yankees announcer Michael Kay uses to call a home run. It also applies to Saturday, September 13, as that was Esther’s and my last visit to Yankee Stadium – “The House that Ruth Built”. (You can read about our previous visit HERE.) As most know, it is being closed at the end of the 2008 baseball season, and a NEW, more luxurious Yankee Stadium will open up across the street.

When we picked this game as our last “Stadium Moment” before the start of the season, we figured on a few things that did not come to pass.

That the Yankees would be in the thick of the race for the Postseason, as they have been every year for about the last decade and a half.

That the Tampa Bay Rays would be easy-pickin’s, as they have been every year of their existence.

And, that the mid-September weather would be cool and comfortable. I try to avoid mid-summer games for exactly that reason.

Well, let’s see… As of this post, the Yankees are in 4TH PLACE, 11 games out of the American League East Division lead and 9 games out of the AL Wild Card. (Not quite yet mathematically eliminated – but all but so!)

The Tampa Bay Rays (…since casting-out the “Devil” from their former name – “The Tampa Bay Devil Rays”) have lead the AL East for much of the season – and could very well finish ahead of the hated Boston Red Sox to take the AL East.

And, just to further pile it on for us, the weather was hot and VERY HUMID (…damned uncomfortably so, in point of fact), and not the nicer weather I assumed for September 13!

Long story short, the Yankees lost the game 7-1, and we LEFT AFTER SIX INNINGS, in consideration of the standings, score (7-0 when we left!), and conditions. And, I’m one of those people who will NEVER leave a game early – and even one who stays through the end credits of a movie, so just imagine...

That’s not exactly the way I expected September 13, 2008 to play out, way back in April!

One final little secret… If the Rays win the AL East, the Red Sox do not. The Yankees are out of it – and for the first time in Derek Jeter’s LIFE, he will not be going to the Postseason. So, on my final visit to historic Yankee Stadium in The Bronx, New York… I rooted for the Tampa Bay Rays!

Better luck next year in the new stadium… where I hope the aisles are wider, so we don’t have to get up every time someone comes by loaded to the hilt with hot dogs and beer!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

DVD Review: DC Comics Super Heroes – The Filmation Adventures

DC Comics Super Heroes – The Filmation Adventures
(Released August 12, 2008 by Warner Home Video)

Yet Another Long DVD Review by Joe Torcivia

(...I did say "Long"!)

Riddle me this, Batman… When is a show not a show?

When it is merely PART OF ANOTHER SHOW!

And, that’s exactly what you’re getting in DC Comics Super Heroes – The Filmation Adventures! In this case, the filler segments from 1967’s THE SUPERMAN / AQUAMAN HOUR OF ADVENTURE, which was the sequel / successor to Filmation's trend setting THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN from 1966. (See a review of that DVD set HERE)

Each hour-long episode of THE SUPERMAN / AQUAMAN HOUR OF ADVENTURE had two short cartoons of Superman, two of Aquaman, and (as I hopefully recall correctly) one segment of Superboy and one segment featuring various Silver Age DC Super Heroes. Those being: The Atom, The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Justice League, and Teen Titans.

Superman saw a release in July 2007 and Aquaman followed in November. Now, we have the "Catch All" volume of the '60s Filmation DC cartoons that completes the series. BATMAN would debut the following year, and is not included here.

As with the SUPERMAN review, we’ll break it into CONS and PROS.


Filmation’s animation. There, I said it, okay?! Let’s move on…

Because, as stated above, this was not an actual show, there is no opening theme – and, more importantly, no end credits.

Warner actually attempts to make up for this by optionally offering the original “AS AIREDAquaman end credit sequence that was used when Aquaman later spun off into his own show. As such, it reflects none of the Superman segment credits – but it also lacks more specific references to the Non-Aquaman segments that make up this set.

This results in actors that are clearly known to the viewer, such as the ubiquitous Paul Frees, being uncredited for his work here. Another case of “credit deficit” is Gerald Mohr (Green Lantern), known in live action for guest staring roles in LOST IN SPACEA Visit to Hades” and VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA The Lost Bomb” – and in animation as Reed Richards in Hanna-Barbera’s FANTASTIC FOUR (…in which, not so coincidently, Paul Frees played The Thing!)

Bob Hastings (from MC HALE’S NAVY, Filmation’s SUPERMAN, and the later 1990s BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES) also appears to voice The Atom, but is not credited as well.

Oh, and the “Aquaman End Credits Theme” is a very lively – almost inappropriately cheerful – marching piece that, after you hear it two or three times, will run through your head repeatedly. You’ve been warned.

In about seven minutes, the stories are often too brief and many of them are hokey, even by Silver Age comic book standards, but others are good – even when formulaic. Besides, some very good DC comic book stories were done in eight pages or so, in the Silver Age comic books of legendary editors Julius Schwartz and Mort Weisinger.

Though generally true to the source material, there are just a few too many divergences from the ‘60s comic books they represent. None, however, are total deal-breakers, as were more common in Hanna-Barbera’s later SUPER FRIENDS.

As I am more familiar (then and now) with The Flash and Green Lantern, and less so with The Atom and Hawkman, I tend to see more differences in the treatment of the former. Your experiences may vary.

· Kid Flash has BLACK HAIR, instead of his usual RED. It looks as if Filmation recycled their Aqualad model for this role.

· Green Lantern’s Eskimo sidekick “Pieface” is absent (that could be a “Pro”), but he is replaced with a blue-skinned, Spock-eared alien pal named Kyro.

· Green Lantern’s masters, The Guardians of the Universe, are FLESH COLORED instead of blue-skinned! I can only guess that they didn’t want to link the powerful Guardians to the already blue-skinned Kyro. But, why not just make Kyro another color and keep the blue-hued image of the Guardians “as-is”?

· Hal Jordan appears to be the ONLY Green Lantern in this series. One of the best things about the Green Lantern concept is that Hal was (and is) just one of a vast galactic peacekeeping force. Probably done just for space / running time.

· In place of Hawkgirl (…who will be excellently portrayed in the 2000’s WB JUSTICE LEAGUE series), Hawkman has a pet hawk named “Screel”! Now, maybe there was a “Screel” in the Silver Age comics, and maybe there wasn’t. But, if I were Hawkman – and “was given the bird” instead of a woman, I’d call it a raw deal!

Given this was the first time these characters were ever adapted to another media, not to mention one with the budgetary and time limitations this series had, there’s nothing here that a typical fan can’t deal with, if he or she puts things in the proper perspective.

I won’t exactly include it under “differences” but, instead of dipping into the great pantheon of Silver Age DC Villains, we end up with such adversaries as “Professor Cragg”, “Mr. Strayle”, and “Dr. Rokar”. Some “Legion of Doom” these guys would make, eh?

There are EIGHTEEN CARTOONS on DC Comics Super Heroes – The Filmation Adventures vs. 36 for the earlier Filmation New Adventures of Superman set. List price was 24.99 for DC Heroes vs. 26.99 for Superman. So, we get 18 FEWER CARTOONS for just TWO DOLLARS LESS? …I’d say this is a “Con” in more ways than one!

The Justice League segment “Target Earth” is CUT – missing its title and writer’s credit.

And, in the strangest “Con” of all, the image of Hanna-Barbera’s BIRDMAN appears in place of DC Comics’ HAWKMAN on the disc menu illustrations. Yes, really! These last two items just look like someone was “asleep at the wheel” (…or at the editing console)!


Outside of comic books, this is the first large-scale exposure the general public had to any of the secondary DC Comics heroes. If you liked the Superman set, you'll probably like this... maybe even more so, for the diversity of characters!

Actual Silver Age DC Comics writer and editor George Kashdan was the predominant writer of these cartoons, with a small number going to well-known DC writer Bob Haney and TV animation writer Dennis Marks (both of whom would do fine work on Filmation’s upcoming BATMAN series of 1968). Renowned DC Comics editor Mort Weisinger was also a consultant to the series.

Given this, the characters accurately reflect their Silver Age identities and origins. Barry Allen is Flash, Hal Jordan is Green Lantern, Ray Palmer is The Atom, Carter Hall is Hawkman, and villain Evil Star appears in one of the Green Lantern segments. Each cartoon has an opening segment that recaps that character’s origin and powers – and displays the character’s Silver Age LOGO as it appears on the comic book covers.

There’s just enough (though not an overabundance, alas) Silver Age Comic Book fun to maintain the interest level of fans of this unique era of fantasy storytelling. The Atom “zapping” alien roaches (Yuck!) by flipping them onto live wires, for instance. And the shot of The Flash encased in green crystal by a mutated ant would have made a perfect cover image during the classic Julius Schwartz / Carmine Infantino / John Broome days of the Speedster’s title. Green Lantern recites his Oath, albeit in truncated form to accommodate the seven-minute running times.

There’s even painfully authentic Silver Age Teen Titans dialogue:

Pour it on, Speedy-O! We’ve got to get to where the action is!” And the unforgettable “Cool it, Wonder Doll, here come the Marines!”

Hmmm… This could be a Pro AND a Con!

The name Filmation speaks for itself in terms of animation quality – but I must admit that the scenes of The Flash running were particularly well done (…Once again, when put in the proper perspective).

The voice acting, as it often was with early Filmation products, is first rate. A Pre-MTM Ted Knight is the narrator for all the various series. Other talents include Bud Collyer reprising his role as Superman in the Justice League segments. Marvin Miller and the previously mentioned Paul Frees, Gerald Mohr, and Bob Hastings help round out the cast.

John Marion’s music scores (though they repeat often enough) seem quite appropriate for Silver Age Super Hero adventures.

Warner made an effort to improve the packaging over the type I complained about in The New Adventures of Superman set review, where one disc of a two-disc set rests upon another. With such packaging, you cannot handle or remove DISC TWO without first removing and handling DISC ONE. There is always potential, however slight, for damage with packaging of this sort. Here, they’ve put DISC ONE on a hinged holder and DISC TWO rests on the back, inside wall of the package. An improvement, I’d say.

Also, in the packaging’s favor – and since this was never an actual show and, therefore, could not be organized as such – the different DC Super Hero segments are arranged and grouped alphabetically. Atom, Flash, and Green Lantern on Disc One and Hawkman, Justice League and Teen Titans on Disc Two.

The last of my props for packaging is for the recreation of the “Silver Age and Prior” DC Comics Logo, which is prominently featured as part of the box cover art. A great way to indicate (for those in the know) what to expect in terms of the characters found therein.

There’s only one Extra Feature, but it’s a doozy! “Animation Maverick: The Lou Scheimer Story”, profiles the co-founder of Filmation Studios. Mr. Scheimer contributes many recollections and anecdotes and is joined by his daughter Erika, his former partner Hal Sutherland, and luminaries who worked at Filmation like animator Darrell Mc Neil, writer/producer Paul Dini of the various Warner Bros. animated series and the TV series LOST, and others.

Filmation is depicted as the last American animation training ground and a great place to have worked, with Scheimer leading the way, as it became (along with Hanna-Barbera) the dominant producer of Saturday Morning network fare – and established the market for new animation in weekday syndication later successfully mined by Disney and Warner Bros.

It was the last American animation studio to do everything “in-house”, which helps earn its place in history. Filmation’s ending is rather sad, but the general feel of the piece is upbeat and very informative. Personally, I’ve always been a Filmation Fan, but you can’t help but have an entirely new appreciation for both the studio and Mr. Scheimer (who turns 80 on October 19, 2008) as a figure of animation history – and as a human being – after viewing this feature.

This documentary is a whopping 40 minutes long, as compared with the 15 minute "Superman in '66" feature on The New Adventures of Superman set. I suppose that helps ease the pain of the price differential between the two sets… just not very much.

If you enjoyed the previous Filmation Superman or Aquaman DVD collections released in 2007, or are a fan of Classic Sat AM TV animation, comic books, DC Heroes, or the Silver Age of comic books in general, you will enjoy DC Comics Super Heroes – The Filmation Adventures! …Tell ‘em Screel and Kyro sent you!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Fun with TV: Does LOST Measure Up to LOST IN SPACE?

In the only true sense this question can be answered, the answer is no. But, don’t jump to conclusions, and read on…

As readers of this Blog know, thanks to DVD, I’ve become a fan of LOST over these last two weeks (See how HERE) – devouring the Season One DVD set over this two week period.

I’ve also been a fan of LOST IN SPACE for about forty-something years. It would be silly to compare them on that basis.

It would be equally absurd to compare their respective types of storytelling. Intense, addicting, continuity-driven shockers for LOST, and light-hearted, episodically self-contained, campy Sci-Fi fun for LOST IN SPACE. Each works well in its own way. And, as they say, your mileage may vary…

Both play the marooned scenario to the hilt. The LOST-ers on an unknown island. The LOST IN SPACE-ers on an unknown planet (…or six or seven).

We could draw character parallels… Each show has a “Man You Love To Hate” (Sawyer vs. Doctor Smith). Each has an intrepid young boy (Walt Lloyd vs. Will Robinson).

The other male characters have various character parallels (sliced and diced up in different ways – and over different individuals). There’s a bit of Jack and Michael in John Robinson, and a bit of Sayid and Locke in Don West – though it IS a bit of a mix-and-match. Certainly, LOST’s comedic aspects – Charlie’s reluctance and Hurley’s fainting – can be paralleled with Doctor Smith.

The females, not so much (modern role sensibilities vs. those of the fifties and sixties). Even Vincent the Dog can parallel Debbie the Bloop… if you try hard enough.

But, no… even character parallels do not make for a valid comparison.

Let’s face it… They’re both great shows – and are decidedly products of their respective eras. Love one, love the other, or love ‘em both!

So, at long last… after all the blathering comparison attempts… the only way LOST can be measured against LOST IN SPACE is… (wait for it!) …in LENGTH!

Yes, the whole “LOST vs. LOST IN SPACE thing” is probably a cheat. I could have used ANY pairing of a modern show with a classic show. But, as I’ve been watching both of THESE shows lately, the pairing just seemed “right” for this post.

According to my DVD player, an average episode of LOST runs about 41-42 minutes, while LOST IN SPACE runs just over 51 minutes. This is UNOFFICIAL, please don’t bother to offer exact running times. It’s not necessary, nor will it drastically alter the point I’m attempting to make.

That point being that there’s a lot more commercial time for (presumably all) modern shows than in bygone days. STILL, they superimpose additional ads on screen over the program, ambush us with pop-up ads, and shrink the end credits to feed us even more promos!

That’s also why you’ll never see a classic series run complete and uncut – there’s just too much material and too little advertising space for that to happen.

I’d always known that contemporary shows HAD to be shorter than their predecessors, but JUST HOW MUCH SHORTER was graphically driven home to me this week – after nearly two weeks of delving into LOST and watching the LOST IN SPACE episode “Blast Off Into Space” (Read about that HERE).

Those familiar with “Blast Off Into Space” might know that we have the Robinson’s planet rocked by quakes, meet Strother Martin as a grizzled alien prospector, learn that his blasting triggered the quakes, discover the life-giving substance he’s blasting for, endure some of Smith’s treachery lusting after said substance, have said substance bring a stone statue to hostile life, watch the Robinsons prepare for liftoff before the planet explodes… and witness the series’ most amazing and dramatic sequence – the climactic destruction of the planet as the Jupiter II struggles to lift off.

This particular scene is, without doubt, the best pre-CGI special effects sequence ever done for television! LOST IN SPACE (nor any of its other Sci-Fi contemporaries) would never see its equal before or after.

The kicker is that, given its running time, an episode of LOST would have ENDED BEFORE that sequence occurred! (The 41-42 minute mark being reached as John Robinson checks his family one more time before lifting off the doomed world!) We would also miss out on the episode’s wrap-up, and the cliffhanger for next week’s show!

That’s not to say that contemporary series like LOST don’t pack a lot into their allotted time – THEY SURE DO!!! But, the comparison in how much more time the older series had to work with (…and how much is CUT OUT OF THEM, when -- and IF -- you see one on TV today) is fascinating… at least to TV series geeks like me!

On the plus side, the shorter running time for episodes of LOST allows me to sometimes get in TWO episodes with my morning coffee before leaving for work, rather than only one of a longer, classic series.

So, in the strictest sense, LOST does not “measure up” to LOST IN SPACE – but, as they often tell us – size (or, in this case, length) doesn’t matter. Enjoy ‘em both, folks!


And, again please, if you comment… No spoilers beyond the end of the First Season of LOST! I’m still a few seasons behind and I still don’t know what that damned “monster” from the first episode is!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

One Afternoon in 1973.

Be glad I don't have a Blog”, I wrote to my e-mailing list on June 02, 2008, “... I'd fill it with stuff like this...”

Well, horror-of-horrors, I now HAVE a Blog… and, in view of the previous post concerning afternoon viewings of LOST IN SPACE (HERE), I am indeed filling it with “stuff like this”!

Don’t worry, I’ll stop the Seventies Syndication Afternoon Retrospectives right here… for now! (…But, know that they can always come back! Bwah-Ha-Ha!)

Here’s that old e-mail “Blog-ified” for your reading pleasure!

Be glad I don't have a blog... I'd fill it with stuff like this...

We should all do occasional oddball things because they can be fun, create or recreate good feelings, etc. This is “one of those things”…

I was off from work today, and just sitting around about 4 PM. And, for no reason in particular, I thought back to 1973.

It was a nice sunny day reminiscent of many of those late high school afternoons where I'd have an hour and a half of TV before working at the mall in the evening. I would spend that time watching BUGS BUNNY and LOST IN SPACE on Channel 5. (Now, FOX 5 New York.)

("It's mine, mine, mine! Down, down, down! Go, go, go!")

So, from my DVD rack I pulled that which would have been representative of such a day. "Ali Baba Bunny" (The best Bugs and Daffy cartoon that didn't involve different Hunting Seasons) and "Oily Hare" with the Rich Texan -- who, thanks to DVD clarity and Pause, I now know was named "Orvill Rich" (...an evil relative of Richie Rich, perhaps?)

These were two prime specimens from the package that Channel 5 would run over and over again for years on end. In this incarnation two Bugs Bunny cartoons were separated by a Non-Warner Bros. cartoon (usually a Famous Studios/Paramount/Harvey cartoon to form the half hour show. It was during this middle cartoon that I would change into my shirt and tie for work that evening. (Sorry, Famous / Paramount / Harvey Fans, but I had to maximize the time somehow! …And when the choice was between one of those and BUGS BUNNY, it’s just not much of a choice!)

For the same unexplained reason, LOST IN SPACE's Second Season episode "The Deadly Games of Gamma Six" (the intergalactic boxing matches) just seemed to be the one that would have been aired on a day like this -- so I pulled it, enjoyed it (without the bad and clumsily executed CUTS that were then a part of the "syndicated show experience", and relished my brief revisit to all those afternoons in 1973.

I just had that little window every day. 4:00 BUGS BUNNY. 4:30 LOST IN SPACE. Couldn't tell you what was on before or after. It went on that way for years before and since. It would change every summer to different shows. But, every September, it would be back exactly that way.

...And, with DVD, I can bring it back anytime I want to! Just gotta be home at 4PM for the full effect! :-)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Because It’s Tradition: “Blast Off Into Fall!”

Welcome to Fall, 2008. Of course, the actual date Autumn begins is September 22 but, for each of us, Fall begins at different times and in different ways. Labor Day, start of school, NFL Kickoff, Jerry Lewis Telethon, take your pick. 

 For me – and probably ONLY ME – it was an annual airing of the 1966 LOST IN SPACE episode “Blast Off into Space! No, wait… Lemme explain… Each year in the East Meadow (NY) School District, the day following Labor Day was our “last day of freedom”. That day would be a Tuesday, and school would begin on Wednesday. Also, during the years of 1969-1974, LOST IN SPACE would air every weekday afternoon – from September thru June on what was then WNEW TV Metromedia 5 (…or “MM5” as their logo put it) and what is now FOX 5 New York. 

  Above left: Strother Martin, Billy Mumy, and Jonathan Harris in “Blast Off Into Space”. 

Labor Day on Channel 5 was, of course, always reserved for the abovementioned Jerry Lewis Telethon, and then – on each “Day-After-Labor-Day-Tuesday”, starting in 1970 – Channel 5 would bring back LOST IN SPACE, beginning the rotation with the first color episode and the second season 
premiere “Blast Off Into Space”. -- -- Guy Williams and Mark Goddard in “Blast Off Into Space”. 

 Naturally, being deprived of the Robinsons, Doctor Smith, and everyone’s favorite nameless Robot for an entire summer, it would be an annual date for this reunion, each “Tuesday, September-whatever”.

There was the feel of a “special occasion” because it was one of the very last things I’d enjoy before another dreaded year of school. It wasn’t a “ritual” as much as “something that just happened” each year. 

Long after LOST IN SPACE gave its afternoon slot over to seventies sit-coms, eighties sit-coms, trashy talk shows, a brief glimmer of quality animated blocks in the nineties that gave us DUCKTALES, BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES, and ANIMANIACS among others, and early newscasts that would increasingly encroach upon what was once an “afternoon preserve” of entertainment programming, I would continue to associate LOST IN SPACE with weekday afternoons… more so than with its original run in prime time. …And, more specifically, I would continue to associate “Blast Off Into Space” with the end of summer and the beginning of fall! --

-- June Lockhart in “Blast Off Into Space”. 

If I recall correctly, the last such year “Blast Off Into Space” would kick off my Personal Fall Season was 1974… and the tradition would go dark for three decades. By 2004, the new age of TV-Shows-on-DVD would be in full swing, and LOST IN SPACE was one of the very first classic series to be collected in this medium. 

Alas, LOST IN SPACE Season Two, Volume One – the DVD volume containing “Blast Off Into Space” – would be released on September 14, 2004, a week or so late for “Day-After-Labor-Day-Tuesday”. But, since 2005, and thanks to DVD, that tradition has been revived and what has become a common, ordinary workday once again has a glimmer of “Something Special” to it. --

-- Jonathan Harris in “Blast Off Into Space”. Needless to say, the tradition was maintained again this day. And, hey… it’s not as wacky as SEINFELD’S “Festivus”!