Back Issue #113 July 2019 (magazine review).

You know how it is. A new issue of ‘Back Issue’ arrives, ahead of # 112 which arrived a couple days later, and instead of just reading the opening article, I ended up reading 20 pages in my first sitting. As the cover shows, this issue covers the 1989 ‘Batman’ film and it’s hard to believe 30 years has passed since it came to our screens. Executive producer Michael Uslan points out that he and Benjamin Melniker bought the rights for ‘Batman’ off DC Comics and it took 10 years to get the film made simply because the various Hollywood studios didn’t see any future in super-hero films.

Then we get to scriptwriter Sam Hamm who took the nascent script and made it darker and changed the focus from the hero to the villain and the casting of Jack Nicholson as the Joker, jolted to taking the offered part only when they were turning to Tim Curry to do the role. Now that would have been interesting. Seeing the flak Michael Keaton was getting as Batman, you would have to have wondered that had happened with Frank-N-Furter as the Joker. There’s a brief interview with Billy Dee Williams about his role as Harvey Dent, although he was only contracted for that film.

Getting writer/editor Denny O’Neil’s take into how he and artist Jerry Ordway’s comicbook adaptation of the film made shows how they got around getting the permission for actors’ likenesses right rather submit each art page.

The look at the Batman comicbooks from that period is also around the time that the Jason Todd/Robin was killed off. Although I agree with writer Jim Starlin’s comments that a sidekick in bright colours was asking to be killed off, I did wonder why he never tried a costume change to something darker. After all, Robin’s costume is a somewhat stylised answer to Robin Hood than the red-breasted bird. No one’s ever tried to do a brown-costumed Robin.

The success of the ‘Batman’ film also meant a resurrection of the ‘Batman’ newspaper strip for 21 months which owes more to the traditional comicbook version than the film. Problematically, it is also probably the last time it will ever appear in American newspapers as their sales drop.

Reading Mindy Newell’s interview as she revised Catwoman back in 1988 in the interview here tends to re-enforce the idea that Selina Kyle’s background is flexible enough to absorb any change and still have a similar outcome.

Oddly, after the ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’, and the demise of Helena Wayne, the new Huntress as portrayed by Helena Bertinelli was less successful. I read both of them, each being drawn by Joe Staton, but given the choice I still liked Miss Wayne more. Stanton’s change in art style for Bertinelli, as shown in the samples here is a lot more like Will Eisner in style. With the way the New 52 has done, who knows, Helena Wayne might get resurrected one day. In the meantime, the article by Marc Buxton here will fill you in on the mobster’s daughter’s history. After all, she is in TV’s ‘Arrrow’ series now so you might want to see her roots.

Finally, a retrospective look at ‘Arkham Asylum’ written by Grant Morrison and painted by Dave McKean. I can’t for the life of me recall why I never read it at the time, although it is on my read list for sometime into the future.

The snapshot into the Batman based events of 30 years ago is bound to stir some memories for a lot of you. For those much younger, it should provide an interesting time capsule of the way things were changing in the post-Crisis reality of DC Comics.

GF Willmetts

May 2019

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 82 page illustrated magazine. Price: $ 8.95 (US). ISSN: 1932-6904. Direct from them, you can get it for $ 7.61 (US))

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