Monthly Archives: January 2014

Batman: The Animated Series – 13 Favorites

Batman

“Heart of Ice”
Airdate: September 7, 1992
The introduction of Mr. Freeze, who was re-imagined in this series as a tragic hero, as apposed to the traditional comic book villain. Pathos that Joel Schumacher completely failed to recreate in “Batman & Robin.”

“Pretty Poison”
Airdate: September 14, 1992
Poison Ivy was introduced by poisoning D.A. Harvey Dent. Besides the first appearance of Ivy, a great femme fatale, I appreciate that the creators took the time to establish the friendship between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent before Dent becomes Two-Face.

“Mad as Hatter”
Airdate: October 12, 1992
Jervis Tetch, underrated member of the Rogues Gallery, becomes mad as a hatter after being overlooked by the woman he loves, Alice. The character was voiced by the great Roddy McDowall, who played The Book Worm on the 1960s live action series.

“Perchance to Dream”
Airdate: October 19, 1992
Bruce Wayne awakes in some alternate reality where his parents are still alive and he is engaged to Selina Kyle. The nightmare was finally over… or was it? The Mad Hatter is revealed to be responsible for this cruel deception.

“Night of the Ninja”
Airdate: October 26, 1992
Kyodai Ken, a nemesis of Bruce Wayne’s, dating back years to his training in Japan, knows Batman’s true identity based on his signature fighting style. Some nice insight into the path traveled by Bruce Wayne to become The Dark Knight.

“Beware the Gray Ghost”
Airdate: November 4, 1992
Adam West, the 1960s caped crusader, guest starred as Simon Trent, a down-on-his-luck actor, whose famous TV persona influenced Bruce Wayne when adopting his own heroic persona. What a clever way to pay tribute to Adam West.

“Harley and Ivy”
Airdate: January 18, 1993
The Joker kicks Harley Quinn to the curb. Harley was a character created for this series and has become a fan favorite. Teaming her up with Poison Ivy has also been done in the comic books. The Joker, the greatest comic villain of all time, was voiced by Mark Hamill. What a stroke of brilliance, giving The Joker a partner in crime / love interest. Gotham City’s version of Bonnie & Clyde.

“The Man Who Killed Batman”
Airdate: February 1, 1993
A low level gangster accidentally vanquishes The Dark Knight… or so it seems. The man’s legend quickly grows. The Joker is not happy about this turn of events. He lashes out at Harley and even holds a funeral for Batman. Amazing, that The Joker would feel his life if purposeless without his arch nemesis.

“Trial”
Airdate: May 16, 1994
Batman is put on trial in Arkham Asylum with The Joker as the judge, Two-Face as the prosecutor, and more members of the Rogues Gallery serving as the jurors. An all-star lineup even if not all character had dialogue. The Riddler just sat there.

“Bane”
Airdate: September 10, 1994
The Latin American masked mercenary, jacked up super-steroids, wants Batman’s cowl as a trophy. Bane was also portrayed as a lover. This episode was much less convoluted than Bane’s appearance in “The Dark Knight Rises.”

“Legends of the Dark Knight”
Airdate: October 10, 1998
Three kids discuss the mythos surrounding the Batman, paying tribute to three different artistic interpretations of The Dark Knight, spanning many years. They also poke fun at a Joel Schumacher inspired character.

“Girls’ Night Out”
Airdate: October 14, 1998
A crossover with “Superman: The Animated Series.” Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy join forces with Livewire. Batman and Superman are predisposed, so Batgirl must team with Supergirl.

“Beware the Creeper”
Airdate: November 7, 1998
Jack Ryder, a local TV reporter, gets exposed to The Joker’s laughing gas and becomes a crazed criminal, infringing on The Joker’s gimmick. The Creeper, as Ryder now calls himself, also develops a crush on Harley.

Paul and Kevin Conroy
(My colleague Paul Zapata with Kevin Conroy at NY Comic Con 2012)

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Legends of Wrestling: The Ultimate Warrior

UltimateWarrior

In 1987, a spaceship which had departed from parts unknown arrived in the World Wrestling Federation. From this ship emerged… THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR!!! He first appeared on the grand stage as an entrant into the 1988 Royal Rumble Match, but he was not yet an icon and was eliminated quickly. He then defeated Hercules Hernandez, of The Heenan Family, at WrestleMania IV in Atlantic City.

The Ultimate Warrior first made his mark when Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake was injured by “The Outlaw” Ron Bass. Beefcake was the #1 Contender for The Honky Tonk Man’s Intercontinental Championship, so Honky was now without an opponent for SummerSlam 1988. The Warrior substituted and defeated The Honky Tonk Man in a record time to win the prestigious Intercontinental Championship. The Warrior was also the sole survivor in the opening match of Survivor Series 1988.

The Ultimate Warrior competed against “Ravishing” Rick Rude in a super pose-down at Royal Rumble 1989, which ended in a no contest after Rude gave The Warrior a cheap-shot. The Ravishing One then defeated The Warrior at WrestleMania V for his title with assistance from Rick Rude’s manager, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Their rematch as SummerSlam 1989 was one of the greatest matches in the career of The Warrior. With assistance from “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, The Warrior regained his title. The Warrior was a sole survivor once again, this time in the main event of Survivor Series 1989.

At Royal Rumble 1990, The Ultimate Warrior crossed paths with “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan, the WWF Champion. The Hulkster inadvertently eliminated The Warrior and set the stage for the “ultimate challenge” at WrestleMania VI in Toronto. Champion vs. champion. Title for title. The Warrior made history by becoming the first superstar since the birth of Hulkamania to score a legit victory over Hulk Hogan, also becoming the first superstar to hold both the Intercontinental and WWF Championships. The Warrior was then forced to relinquish the Intercontinental Championship by Jack Tunney, president of the WWF, so he could focus on the defending the WWF World Title.

The Ultimate Warrior successfully defended the gold at SummerSlam 1990 against his long time nemesis, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, in a Steel Cage Match. The Warrior was a sole survivor yet again at Survivor Series 1990, earing his way into the grand finale match of survival, where he and Hulk Hogan were victorious. The Warrior refused to defend his title against “Macho King” Randy Savage, likely because The Macho King had his manager, Sensational “Queen” Sherri, issue the challenge on his behalf, so Savage interfered in The Warrior’s match with Sgt. Slaughter at Royal Rumble 1991, costing Warrior the WWF Championship.

The Ultimate Warrior and “Macho King” Randy Savage, two of the top stars of their era, faced off in a Career Ending Match at WrestleMania VII in Los Angeles. The Warrior was victorious in this show stealing match and (temporarily) retired Randy Savage. The Warrior then resumed his feud with Sgt. Slaughter, teaming with Hulk Hogan in a Handicap Match at SummerSlam 1991 against The Triangle of Terror: Sgt. Slaughter, Col. Mustapha, & Gen. Adnan. Sid Justice was the special guest referee. Hogan and The Warrior were the winners, but The Warrior disappeared from the WWF immediately following the match. Warrior had, just prior to SummerSlam, been double crossed by Jake “The Snake” Roberts, who aligned with The Undertaker and Paul Bearer, but there was no resolution to this rivalry.

The Ultimate Warrior made his surprise return to the WWF at WrestleMania VIII in Indianapolis, saving Hulk Hogan from Sid Justice and Papa Shango. The Warrior then challenged “Macho Man” Randy Savage, the reigning WWF Champion, at SummerSlam 1992. “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig interfered in the match and The Warrior won via count out, but titles cannot change hands on a count out. Warrior and Savage formed “The Ultimate Maniacs” alliance and were set to face Ric Flair and Razor Ramon in a tag team match at Survivor Series 1992, but Warrior again vanished from WWF programming. He was replaced by Mr. Perfect in the match.

This time, The Ultimate Warrior remained gone for over three years before returning at WrestleMania XII in Anaheim to decimate Hunter Hearst Helmsley. He was set to face Goldust for the Intercontinental Championship at In Your House a month later, but Goldust had injured his knee earlier in the night and intentionally got himself counted out to retain his title. After defeating Jerry “The King” Lawler at King of the Ring 1996, The Warrior was to team up with Shawn Michaels and Ahmed Johnson against Camp Cornette: Vader, Owen Hart, & The British Bulldog at the next In Your House, but abruptly left the WWF for a third time and was replaced by Sycho Sid.

The Ultimate Warrior resurfaced two years later in World Championship Wrestling, confronting “Hollywod” Hulk Hogan on Monday Nitro. The Warrior participated in a #1 Contenders’ War Games Match at Fall Brawl 1998, then was defeated by Hulk Hogan at Halloween Havoc 1998. Members of the New World Order interfered in the match and The Warrior’s brief tenure in WCW came to and end soon after.

The Ultimate Warrior came out of retirement in 2008 for a match against Orlando Jordan in Nu-Wrestling Evolution. The Warrior won and relinquished the NWE Championship all on the same night. The Warrior will soon be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on the eve of WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans.

Let’s get ready to rumble!!!

Posters are property of WWE

Posters are property of WWE

The Desolation of Impact Wrestling

TNA

For the first time in several months, I tuned into iMPACT Wrestling on Spike TV on the evening January 16, 2014. I really gave up on the promotion during the summer of 2012 and am now only a casual fan. Dixie Carter has gone the route of Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff, plastering herself all over TV, taking the focus off of actual professional wrestlers. Too bad she doesn’t have the presence of Vinnie Mac and Easy-E.

Dixie Carter and her loyal heel followers opened “Genesis” with a twenty minute in-ring promo. Wait, I thought this was suppose to be like a free PPV? What PPV would waste twenty minutes before the opening match?

Of course, all the lights flicker and who arrives to save the day with his trusted black baseball bat in hand… This is STING!!! Wow, how can Sting not be sick of this routine? This man never really left 1997. And is Abyss still posing as his own brother? How long has this angle been going on for? Two years? I’m sure all masked wrestlers get tired off wearing their masks, but this is ludicrous. Also, Magnus has two world championship belts and is now introduced as the undisputed champion. I wonder if any other wrestling promotion has recently unified its world heavyweight championship?

I don’t know who this new wrestler is, the one obsessed with Christy Hemme and who dresses like Dexter Morgan, but this edgy gimmick has potential even if some might take offense. What is Bully Ray doing on TV after the end of “Aces & Eights?” It is my belief that a former world champion who has lost his heel faction needs to disappear for a time. Bully’s storyline has run its course and he needs to step aside before becoming a tedious fixture on their weekly programming. Though, many already considered “Aces & Eights” tedious.

It was nice to see Madison Rayne return and win the Knockouts Championship from Gail Kim. I’m a fan of both these ladies. I got Madison’s autograph at a TNA live event back in 2010, when she had her “Beautiful People” bleach blonde hair, and she’s super cute in person. Hopefully, this is the return to form for the once prominent Knockouts division.

MadisonRayne

Sting is #1 Contender for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship? I really don’t mean to disrespect Sting, but he must know that his time has passed and he should do the right thing and put Magnus over cleanly, even if Magnus is a heel.

PEZ in the City, Part III

3Pez Tweety
Tweety Bird @ Tom’s Restaurant

3Pez Chewbacca
Chewbacca @ Columbia University

3Pez Droids
R2-D2 & C-3PO @ Central Park West

3Pez Superman
Superman @ 34th Street

Boba Fett
Boba Fett @ Bryant Park

3Pez Wolverine
Wolverine @ Port Authority Bus Terminal

3Pez Frosty
Frosty the Snowman @ Madison Square Park

“Beneath the Planet of the Apes” (1970)

Nova & Brent - Beneath the Planet of the Apes

I will pass on writing a review of “Planet of the Apes” (1968) since I reference that film many times in this article about its sequel. Marooned astronauts, social commentary, a twist ending. All great stuff. I know Rod Serling was just one of several writers who worked on the screenplay, but “Planet of the Apes” did play like a 112 minute episode of “The Twilight Zone.” “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” was an atypical sequel where the original film’s protagonist, Charlton Heston, only makes a glorified cameo. Roddy McDowall, who becomes the face of the ape franchise, only appeared in stock footage from the previous film. A different actor, David Watson, plays Cornelius for the rest of the film. Kim Hunter and Maurice Evans do return as Zira and Dr. Zaius respectively. Zira and Cornelius don’t have much purpose in the story other than to give occasional aid to the human protagonists. Perhaps the absence of Roddy McDowall was the reason for their reduced screentime? But, Linda Harrison had a lot more screentime as Nova. A definite plus.

Without Charlton Heston as Taylor for the vast majority of the film, James Franciscus was introduced as Brent, the sole survivor of a two man rescue team sent in search of Taylor. I suppose that was the first problem with the screenplay. According the original film, even if Taylor’s mission had been a success, he and his crew still would have been away from Earth for 700 years (give or take a century), so Brent would have been long since deceased when Taylor’s spaceship was declared overdue. There was not a specific reason given for a 2,000 year passage of time in the original film. The astronauts could only speculate. Either their equipment malfunctioned and kept them in their suspended animation for too long or their spaceship was pulled into some sort of time warp. I’m betting on a time warp since “Escape from the Planet of the Apes” (1971) specified time travel. ASNA (this universe’s version of NASA) was really wasting its time by sending another crew after Taylor. How valuable was he to the space program? Especially after so many centuries? Both he and his ship would have been deemed archaic. But, a new protagonist was required.

There’s no arguing that James Franciscus was a “Charlton Heston type.” This makes some sense since according to the original film, “all humans look alike.” So, you can understand why Zira initially mistook Brent for Taylor. The audience never gets too familiarized with Brent. Act one of “Planet of the Apes” took the time to flesh out Taylor before the apes were introduced. Brent was given no such treatment. In a way, one could say that James Franciscus was to Charlton Heston what George Lazenby was to Sean Connery.

Brent and Nova discover a race of mutated human telepaths living underground in the ruins of New York City. General Ursus, played by James Gregory, is leading the gorilla army into the forbidden zone, looking to engage whomever resides their. Unbeknownst to the apes, the telepaths are worshiping an atomic bomb. A doomsday weapon. Brent is reunited with Taylor, who was being held captive by these telepaths. I enjoy how they react to each other. Brent knows all about Taylor, while Taylor is only vaguely familiar with Brent. During their escape, Nova is killed. Taylor and Brent seem to have different agendas following the death of Nova. Brent wants to stop the telepaths from detonating their bomb, but I think Taylor had already reconciled himself with the end of the world. Both of the heroic astronauts are gunned down. Before Taylor draws his last breath, he takes it upon himself to detonate the atom bomb, destroying the world as Dr. Zaius had predicted man would.

Overall, “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” was a disjointed, but enjoyable sequel. There was great deal of violence considering the anti-war themes of the film. I don’t know if the filmmakers were entirely successfully in conveying their message. The violence in “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” (1972) was better justified because the theme of that film was revolution.