Friday, July 28, 2023

With Due Respect to Paul Lekakis

Sometimes our entertainment media from the past have built-in limitations.

Say, for example, you, having succumbed (DESPITE MY WARNINGS) to the soul-eroding lure of surrealism, wanted a big-ass eye-popping hi-def repro of a Dali for your dorm room.  Because obviously if you want a big-ass eye-popping hi-def repro of Dali in your living space, you are in college.

Probably "The Persistence of Memory". If you were cool, it would be something more like "The Temptation of Saint Anthony'. But it you were that cool, you wouldn't want a big-ass eye-popping hi-def repro of a Dali on your dorm wall to begin with.

Well, too bad. I've been to the Dali Museum, and I can confirm you can't have one, for a very simple reason.

Good luck looking for a signature, bub.

"The Persistence of Memory" is a very small painting.  You can't just "zoom and enhance" like a future-computer; any attempt to do so is just a hornswoggling boondoggle.  All you're going to get is an increasing fuzzy-looking version of "The Persistence of Memory".

A result surely intended by the waggish artist as a visual satire of the elusive vagueness of actual memories, which resist any efforts to force them to resolve into clarity, even when they persist.  
Or, you know, just because it's small.

I have some "cleaned up" versions of some classic pop tunes, ones where modern technological techniques have been applied to bring clarity to the voices of the original singers, historically buried under the mud of the limitations of the means of recording available to them. And it is eye-opening.

Unfortunately it is also ear-closing.  Turns out there is a REASON that Toni Basil is a world-famous CHOREOGRAPHER.  Being able to hear her singing voice more clearly emphatically does NOT make "Hey, Mickey" a more enjoyable song. It ruins it, in fact, and you have to try to block it from your mind anytime you hear the original version again, lest it destroy your ability to enjoy that, too.

Pictured: Eye-opening.
There are times when the persistence of memory is a downside.

And the less said about the cleaned-up version of Boom Boom Boom by Paul Lekakis, (whom I met during an eventful weekend at Rehoboth during his floruit), the better.

Some memories are best left uncleaned, like Paul Lekakis saying "Let's go back to my room."

So it is with that I mind that I confess to you my utter inability to understand anyone's excitement about the announcement of a 4K remastered version of "Mask of the Phantasm".  

This is not because I am not a fan of "MotP".  Quite the opposite. I cannot imagine it looming larger in anyone's memory than it does it mine.  

In late 1993, all four of my jaws were broken simultaneously and i spent quite some time with my faced bloated, bruised, and wired-shut, subsisting only on Ensure-based milkshakes laced with horse-strength painkillers, sipped through a post-dental straw.  I spent Thanksgiving that way, and, since most of my friends don't know Sign Language, I had to communicate the entire time through a 1990-style laptop that someone loaned me so that I could type out conversation on it.

This is about what that looked like, in case you don't know.
It's a memory whose persistence definitely has a downside.

On December 25, 1993, I had not left the house for at least two months.  A snowstorm began to hit Washington DC that day. Not as bad as the historic "Superstorm" in March, but still nothing that anyone in their right mind would choose to go out in.

And yet.

A friend came and trundled me into an uneasily-procured cab, immobile face and all, and accompanied me on the trek to a small now-long-closed cinema in upper NW DC so that I could see "Mask of the Phantasm" on its opening day.  I had a large Cherry Coke and had skipped my painkillers so I wouldn't be foggy for the experience.

I wanted to make sure my memories of the event persistent and weren't fuzzy.

It still remains the happiest Christmas I have ever had and I am very very fine with that. I cannot imagine any single day making me happier than I was getting out of the house for the first time in two months, into a blinding snowstorm, to sit in a nearly empty cinema, watching that film.  I remember how much I enjoyed it as if it were yesterday.

What can "4k" add to that?  Greater "clarity"? It's a broad scope cartoon; there are no 'details' to see.

I... don't think I'm missing any useful details here.  Does the Joker have something stuck in his teeth I can't see? A piece of scenery, I'm sure.

Like the Golden Age Batman comics it was modeled on, BTAS (even big-screen Mask of the Phantasm) isn't about 'visual detail'. It's all simplification, abstraction, and chiaroscuro.

This panel still remains my perfect example of the power and virtue of the Golden Age art style.

Perhaps Fleischer's Superman cartoon benefit from such a treatment.  But those are a different animal indeed.

I mean, they used roto-scoping, for pete's sake.. Doug Jones went BACK IN TIME to do mo-cap for those robots.

4king "Mask of the Phantasm" just seems like throwing tech at something simply because you can.

And just possibly because you can get people to give you additional money for something they've already seen and own.

4K isn't going to help me, at least, enjoy "Mask of the Phantasm" better. Certainly not better than that Cherry Coke did.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

DEATH IS THE PRIZE:Cliff and Steve

 So would WROTE this thing ("Death Is The Prize"), anyway?

Oh. Well, then.

"Cliff & Steve". Yeah, well, I guess if I wrote Golden Age Green Arrow stories, I would have been too embarrassed to put my name on them, too.  

But even this I believe is a DECEPTION. Cliff & Steve were the artists; the unnamed writer for this story was almost certainly regular Green Arrow writer Mort Weisinger (whose crimes against humanity are legion, but who invented, among other things "The Imaginary Story", so if you ever enjoyed an Elseworlds tale, you have Mort to thank).

Almost certainly Cliff is Cliff Young and Stete is Steve Brodie.  Both were Golden Age G.A. artists, not writers.  

A Cliff Young drawing.

Cliff Young did write a book on Drawing Drapery which you can still buy today at Target, believe it or not.


You cannot buy his other book "Figure Drawing Without a Model", because it's out of print.

Good luck sleeping tonight.

It's also not available because

This, of course, is "Top Light", Green Arrow's underappeciated (and underdressed) female Golden Age villain.  Rather a free spirit she was.
"Would you like to see more of Top Light? Write and let us know!"

Steve Brodie was a weirdly-built daredevil/bar owner who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge and lived.

They don't make 'em like that any more.

But that's not the right Steve Brodie. Neither is Steve Brodie, the doughy movie star whom you remember from "Donovan's Brain" (1953).

They don't make 'em like that any more.

No, Steve Brodie The Artist is a MYSTERY man. No photos, no bio.  There's really just ONE thing I know about Steve Brodie: he created exactly ONE character for DC Comics.


And that's all I need to know for Mystery Artist Steve Brodie to be one of my Golden Age Heroes.

Thursday, July 20, 2023


When we last left Olle and Roy, Green Arrow had intentionally missed the crook's target so as not to give himself away as the genuine article, having been warned by Roy The Underage Adult, that to do so would ensure his death at the hands of St. Louis Louie and his tie-wearing gang. As long as the last guy (whom we've dubbed "Hillbilly Arrow") doesn't hit the target everything will be fine: all the contestants will be dismissed as fakers. That way, Ollie can call the police to mop up the gang while he's at home in his smoking jacket or off fishing.

Not only does this guy look like Green Arrow (although his hair is now suddenly colored brown), he's every bit the overconfident jackass that Ollie is.  He's Oliver's Paul Sloane, apparently.

Fortunately, there is no way this arrogant poseur can hit that target. Intentionally.

Chance of doing it UNintentionally, however, is 99%, because Golden Age Green Arrow is a sitcom where hijinx WILL ensue.

A blow on the head! This is definitely where this (still unnamed) guy wakes up convinced that HE is Green Arrow and for the rest of the Golden Age, Oliver is hounded by this deranged wannabe, set on killing Ollie and taking his place as Roy's lover, er, I mean, Green Arrow.  What would you name this guy? "Preen Arrow"?  Nah, let's call him "Green Harrow".

At least, that's what would happen in Gotham City. But this is Star City, so he just gets dumped in the back of a plum Studebaker on his way to sleep with the fishes.

"Why not capture them now, G.A.?"
"Because we've got two and half more pages to go. Besides, we haven't used the catapult yet."

Well, as we can now confirm, this is still the era where the Arrowcar is called the Arrowplane, for no other reason I have ever been able to discern.  Maybe the "aeroplane" pun was too good to pass up and Ollie's fortune wasn't thought of as large enough at this point to justify a plane? Or he hadn't yet gotten permission to station a giant yellow jet on his apartment building's rooftop? I mean, it's bad enough that the ArrowCAR takes up eight parking spaces in the garage.

"Besides, this will give us the excuse to use the catapult when we get to the docks."
"But they could kill him and just be using that to dispose of--"

The journey, during which none of St. Louis Louie's gang of seasoned criminals notices a GIANT YELLOW JUGGERNAUT WITH A DORSAL FIN tailing them, ends at Star City's legendary Small Craft Cove.

"Waiting until they actually THROW him into the water, G.A.? Doesn't that seem like an ill-advised and unwarranted--"

Per usual, Roy realizes that Oliver's plan is terrible and bravado-based, but he's too cowed by the prospect of possible penury to press his objections.

Pictured: Showboating.

I really wish the artists (whom we'll discuss tomorrow) would have taken the time to show two grown men landing feet first on a small rowboat, without it breaking or capsizing.  I guess Green Arrow is just THAT good a shot <eyeroll>.

Okay, "Tell it to the marine animals" is pretty funny, especially for the Golden Age. I can see why St. Louis Louie, comedically large bowtie and all, is still one of Green Arrow's best known and beloved adversaries today.

St. Louis Louie is sufficiently genre-savvy to know that G.A. calls the ropes he ties to arrows "Arrowlines".  If this were the Bronze Age instead of the Golden Age, you just know that "ArrowLINES" would be the name of the letter-column. Also, the incompetent criminal lieutenant who was running the contest (a Lieutenant Louie?) is, surprisingly, a sadistic psychopath.

But not to fear; none of that will avail against the avenging bane of ALL Star City criminals:

See? I'm not the only one who can't remember his codename.

Meanwhile, Green Harrow learns a lesson; everybody hates Green Arrow and wants him dead.

The start of Ollie's weird doppelganger fetish.
"Well, here you are, Gee-Ay.  Soaked from Small Craft Cove, trembling in fear, and bound helpless, while wearing my costume, in a small rowboat that won't capsize no matter HOW hard two grown men slam into it. I'm going to enjoy this...."

Naturally, the criminals misinterpreted the situation as Red Arrow having rescued Green Arrow because, well, that's how things work in Star City and Occam's Razor and all that.

Note that the gang has zero qualms about being able to handle Green Arrow.  It's SPEEDY they are afraid of. Oliver's oblivious to this as always. What Uncle Gadget doesn't know, won't hurt him (as long as Penny is there to protect him).

St. Louis Louie reminds us about the time recently he almost killed Green Arrow just by bouncing an empty revolver off his skull, because that will remain the pinnacle of his career.

This MIGHT have been our chance to be rid of Oliver once and for all and let Roy take over. But, no.  Golden Age Green Arrow is a systole and diastole between Ollie The Impetuous Imbecile and Green Arrow the Demigod-like Odyssean Archer.

That's the most ridiculous Green Arrow thing I've ever seen.
And I've seen the Plastic Cat Arrow.

There is just SO much wrong with that panel that to discuss it would take longer than recapping the entire story.  

The rest of the story is just skippable mop-up ops, including the Golden Age finishing trope of the Chastisement of The Foolish (usually reserved for the villain but sometimes bestowed on a Well-Meaning But Misguided Civilian, as in this case).

While Roy nets the Lieutenant Louies, Ollie is ALREADY planning his next fishing trip with Hillbilly Arrow.

Of course you "ain't" in a class with those two fellows, you stupid hick; you're a risible hillbilly and they are well-heeled urban sophisticates who fight crime AS A HOBBY.  I suppose this is why the Lieutenant Arrows were never seen again; they would have sullied Green Arrow's legendary dignity.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

DEATH IS THE PRIZE: The Lieutenant Arrows

When last we left Ollie, he was trying to prove that HE was Green Arrow to a bunch of (people who he doesn't realize are) criminals, in distinction to the three fakers who've shown up.

Let's call them Fat Arrow, Hillbilly Arrow, and Tall Arrow.

In a sensible city like Fawcett, these fan-boy auxiliaries would become an on-going comedy relied aspect of Green Arrow's adventures. But Ollie himself pretty much provides his own comedy relief.

This whole deal has to be delegated to the guy in the gang that Green Arrow won't recognize by the actual Gangleader, St. Louis Louie, and his ridiculously large bow-tie. That's the reason the underling doesn't just shoot ALL the Green Arrows and be done with it, I suppose; it's just above his paygrade.

What a bow-tie. In Gotham City, he'd be a bow-tie-themed villain (Mr. Butterfly? You couldn't call him "Bat-Wing").  Frankly, he stinks of Ally Babble and the less you know about Ally Babble the better.

And so, minutes later...  the "William Tell" plot, where all the Green Arrows have to compete in an archery contest to determine which one in the genuine article, is ON.  

Fat Arrow, who claims to be a Green Arrow fan, can't even CONCEIVE of hitting a target that's ON THE GROUND.  And he closed the comic book store early for this!

While all this sitcom nonsense is going on, Roy Harper The Underage Adult is worried that Ollie's not back from school and may be caught in a bad neighborhood.

Sidekick is LITERALLY worried because his super-hero went to a bad neighborhood. Shake my head. It's too sad even to laugh at.

Roy heads to "Elm Street", the name that strikes fear into the hearts of all law-loving Star Citizens.  

Arrow Fact: Roy Harper is a certified Special Education teacher, thanks to his time with Ollie Queen.

So, rather than just, you know, shooting the crooks in the legs, Roy chooses to play along with the whole "PSST!" part of the plot like he's on an episode of That's So Raven! I'm a big fan of just shooting crooks in the leg. Whenever anyone shoots me in the leg, all my focus on criminal activity evaporates immediately.

But, no, Roy has to play along because its in his youthful-ward-contract, I guess, or they send him back to the Rez. So, as usual, he out-William-Tells Ollie by screwing up what would have been Ollie's winning shot in the "Will The Real Green Arrow Please Stand Up?" contest.

Ollie, to his credit, figures out that the person who hit his green arrow with another green arrrow was not one of the Other Green Arrows, but, um, Red Arrow or whatever Roy's codename is.

Hillbilly Arrow is NOT kidding around.  He's increasing keen on REPLACING Green Arrow. In Gotham City, he would become Catman or Hugo Strange or Killer Moth. But, no; this is Star City and he's just Hillbilly Arrow (no real name needed).

Ollie, while no one is looking, apparently, just magically pops up to the roof to chat with Roy about the situation.

Did Ollie CATAPULT up there using the Arrowcar? I'd like to think so, but we know from previous panels that he took THE ARROWPLANE (unless of course we are still in the early period with the Arrowcar was CALLED the Arrowplane, even though it was a car, because Star City).  Regardless, Ollie's got an giant yellow vehicle parked somewhere nearby that he easier could have simply whipped out the keys to as a way of proving that HE is Green Arrow.

But that's just not how things are in Star City, so don't think about that...

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

DEATH IS THE PRIZE: Will the real Green Arrow please stand up?

The title of this post, for those who do not recognize it, is from an old game show, To Tell The Truth (1956-78), in which three contestants (one the genuine article and two fakers) would claim to be a certain person with a particular backstory in an attempt to fool a panel of celebrities (professional cocktail guests, mostly).  Winners got, I dunno, a blender.

Actually, it was about $500.
The losers were executed on live TV.

Why, you ask...?

Well, when we last left Ollie and Roy, Ollie's bow and arrows had been *snort* STOLEN when he dropped them during a rooftop battle with some low-rent gang-in-ties.

No comic book hero has a higher Longevity/Competence ratio than Oliver Queen.  
I mean, at least you have to approach Hal Jordan FROM BEHIND to hit him in the head. 

Turns out, the weapons were snagged by an undetected member of the gang, who have decided to use it to lure Green Arrow into a trap.

I miss gangs-in-ties, whose native language is Exposition.

If your first thought is, "Really?! How can the criminals be that stupid to believe such a plan will work?"  The obvious answer is "because they are from Star City, the City Without Sense (tm)".  But the correct answer is:

CLEARLY, Roy, barely containing his amusement, knows this is a trap and just wants to see whether Ollie will fall for it. There is an entirely different (and MUCH more interesting) version of Roy Harper in the Golden Age then the drug-addled douchebag the unimaginative modern age has made of him. 

"Because Green Arrow is that stupid and it will."

"SURE you will, 'G.A.'  Meanwhile, I will stay here, dressed as an adult, studying for the LSATs and boning up on the inheritance rights of 'wards'."

So. Ollie goes to reclaim his bow and arrows. After all... what could possibly go wrong?

Joe Quesada cosplaying as G.A., that's what.

"I can sell it at ComiCon!"

It's really easier to think of Green Arrow as Star City's Greatest Loser. But you're forgetting the host of Green Arrow FANS in Star City.  Even though this one's avoirdupois makes it obvious he's not Green Arrow, he still thinks he's going to pull it off, because he's from Star City, The City Without Sense (tm). At least he's the only one.

When you become a criminal in Star City, you sign up to be the beleaguered Everyman in a faded sitcom.

That is, a surprise OTHER than that spelling of "dumbfounded".

Whoa, settle down, Beavis! Cornholio wants some arrows for his quiver-hole.  For some reason, this hardened criminal doesn't just tell these losers to hit the road, because they are obviously not the loser he's waiting for.  But it's all complicated by the fact that two apparently credible candidates for genuine Green Arrowhood arrive immediately after.

"It's the plumber; I've come to fix the sink."

Add "cosplay" to the 1001 Ways To Defeat Green Arrow. How are they going to figure out who is who?!

Oh. Right.

Ah, this is one of Green Arrow's "William Tell" stories, where The Plot awkwardly positions him in some sort archery test/contest.

"Whoever wins the basketball game is the REAL Green Arrow!"

Gotham City villains would have simply shot them all. Or put them in an ersatz death trap.  But this is Star City, so the criminals HAVE to determine which one is Green Arrow so they can kill him and not the wrong ones.

I'll sure they'll be no complications with that.