Category Archives: birds of prey
After a Thanksgiving break, “Arrow” is back, with the Huntress.
In the first part of this special Huntress double feature on “Arrow” we see the debut of a DC Comics super-heroine with a decidedly special pedigree.
History lesson time. Originally the Huntress was Helena Wayne, the adult daughter of the Batman and Catwoman of a parallel universe called Earth-Two. She was an extremely popular character, representing a next generation of crimefighters on that world.
When DC Comics decided to clean house in the 1980s, they effectively erased Earth-Two from continuity and rebooted the Huntress as Helena Bertinelli, the vigilante daughter of a crime boss. Notably this version lacked the charm of the original and was subsequently less popular.
When the CW (of was it the WB then?) decided to bring the comic Birds of Prey to the small screen about a decade ago, they featured the Huntress as once again the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. The show only lasted one season and was, while sometimes fun, mostly bad, and a mish-mash of comic continuity. It’s interesting that the show came up at dinner with friends the other night, and it was remembered with only contempt. You can read my thoughts from the time on the “Birds of Prey” series here.
Interestingly enough, DC Comics has returned to the Earth 2 concept and brought the Huntress back to her first origins. It’s a shame that “Arrow” has decided to use the Helena Bertinelli version for their show. Maybe they thought the Batman reference would be confusing? Well, then they’d better stop referencing Bludhaven is all I have to say.
I think it’s worth noting up front that in the comics, the Huntress and Green Arrow are two characters that have had very little interaction, despite their choice in common weaponry. The Huntress is an odd selection to show up here, just saying.
As “Muse of Fire” opens, Oliver’s mom is caught in the crossfire of a mob hit. She was having lunch at the time with the mobster. And the hitter turns out to be our lovely Huntress, as played by Australian Jessica DeGouw, not the most charming or likable or even talented actress. Disappointingly her character turns out to be simply a female version of Arrow, working through her own list. I could think of more interesting ideas than that.
This episode also features the return of Kelly Hu as China White, as the Triad is revealed to be a rival of Helena’s dad, crime boss Frank Bertinelli. The latter, scared, starts to rattle the cages toward a mob war. One incident leads to the first confrontation between Arrow and the Huntress. Great exchange between Diggle and Oliver follows as they try to figure her motives. I love Diggle more and more every episode. I just wish he wasn’t so ‘Alfred’ in this one.
Anyone else ever notice that Tommy Merlyn is always around? At the Queen house, at their job, at Laurel’s job, but he’s never there to see his best friend Oliver. It’s just odd. Did he just take his place with the family in a very creepy way while Oliver was on that island thought dead?
Tommy goes to dinner with Laurel, and Oliver goes to dinner with Helena. There is clever well written dialogue for both, and Stephen Amell does his best, acting against the cardboard wall that is DeGouw. Meanwhile Captain Jack Harkness visits Oliver’s Mom’s sickbed. It has been frustrating but I have admire how well the writers have concealed the identity of the character John Barrowman plays on “Arrow.”
Spoiler alert for those who have seen it yet, but the secret comes out here. He’s not Maxwell Lord, or John Deleon, or Count Vertigo. He’s someone rather boring, at least for the comics fans. John Barrowman is Malcolm Merlyn, Tommy’s dad. Of course, wouldn’t it be cool if Barrowman turned out to be Merlyn the Magician?
There’s a nice shout out to the co-creator of the comic book Huntress, Joe Staton, in the name of Helena’s late fiancé. Nice touch. He also gave her the cross she wears around her neck – as much a symbol for the second comics Huntress as the bat was for the first.
The episode ends with Oliver and Helena entwined in a kiss, kindred souls in justice, revenge, and an understanding of one another. What happens next? Be here tomorrow, same Arrow time, same Arrow channel.
Finally the DVD set for the 2002 “Birds of Prey” TV series has come out. Here are my reviews of the program reviewed as it aired back then:
It’s really not as bad as I thought back then. Perhaps it got better with age. It’s not the comic book, not by a long shot, but if you go in with an open mind and a blank slate without knowledge of the comic… it’s really not bad.
After much hoopla and uber-promotion, the Black Canary has debuted tonight on the CW’s “Smallville” series. This isn’t the Canary’s first foray into live-action television as she first appeared in NBC’c horrid “Legends of the Super-Heroes” back in the 1970s and most recently in “Birds of Prey“. Here on “Smallville,” her appearance marks the long-awaited return of Green Arrow. All in all it was a great episode with some very cool superhero action and fairly good effects, however watered down by the gruesome soap opera aspect that the series has taken on. As a not-so-regular viewer (basically only when comic book concepts show up) I have to say that this aspect has gotten not only worse, but campier. Whereas last season I was on board for most of the Green Arrow episodes, and enjoyed the antics of Clark, Lana, Lex and Lois – as of this one… not so much. It’s Superman, guys, just let him be Superman. There’s enough soap opera in that paradigm already.
SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF 03
Batmania Vs. Supermanga
Reviewing: Secret Files & Origins To The DC Universe 2001-2002, Sugar and Spike Replica Edition #1, Birds of Prey #42, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Batman: The 10-Cent Adventure, Superman #178, 182, Adventures
of Superman #603-605 and Ultiman Giant Annual #1
Copyright 2002 Glenn Walker
DC has been doing these Secret Files books for awhile, sometimes they’re worth it, sometimes not. I’d have to say Secret Files & Origins To The DC Universe 2001-2002 was not. This was a commercial, and false advertising at that.
Let’s just look at the cover. Superman (who at least looks like Superman, a rarity as we’ll see below) appears in six panels in the lead story. Wonder Woman, two panels. Hawkman, the reason I bought it, was mentioned once and appeared barely in two panels. Saturn Girl, also two panels. Krypto, apparently the star of the book, six panels like his master. Azrael gets a vague non sequitor two page sequence. Orpheus, a new character gets a text piece – an ad for his new book basically. And Steel? Only on the cover. What a rip!
Inside the book we get a jumbled but touching story about a working couple who hardly have time for each other because their jobs have them each running around the DC universe. It’s interspersed with mentions of various major plotlines going on in many DC books this past year. The highlight is a fictional movie ad for “Topeka” a movie made about the Worlds At War series that ran through the Superman books.
Then we have the blatant ads, the pin-ups and text pieces on upcoming series or books DC wants to push. Suicide Squad (already on the cancellation block), Haven, Doom Patrol (yes, another new Doom Patrol), Orpheus (a Bat spin-off I won’t bother with cuz I don’t want to buy the other fifty Bat-books to keep up), Power Company (actually quite good, but this dry text piece sure wouldn’t have sold me on it), Josie Mac (also quite good but dry as well) and Legion which is completely unrecognizable to me as the Legion but makes sure to make itself inaccessible to new readers. Hmmmm, ads that don’t work, another $4.95 down the drain, I think I won’t be buying any more Secret Files.
To wash the sour taste of that one out of my mouth I also purchased the reprint of Sugar and Spike #1 originally published in 1956. This was a joy by the master Sheldon Mayer and worth every penny of $2.95. Why can’t we have more comics like this?
Birds of Prey is a hot topic lately. It’s been picked up as a series for the WB by the same people who do “Smallville.” To be aired Wednesdays at 9:00 PM it will be in the future as “Smallville” is supposedly in the past. Also in common with “Smallville” the comics continuity is thrown out the window, in other words some of the characters in this show will have the same names as characters in the comics. The plot for the pilot has Batman (played by the actor from the OnStar commercials) fleeing Gotham City after the Joker (voiced but not performed by Mark Hamill) kills Catwoman and cripples Batgirl. Years later Batgirl, now a computer hacker tries to fight crime with help of two new female crusaders.
Casting for the moment has Dina Meyer (who was so hot in “Starship Troopers” and “Johnny Mnemonic”) in the Oracle/Batgirl/Barbara Gordon, Rachel Skarsten as the telepathic (?) and teenage (??) Dinah Laurel Lance (not called Black Canary in the pilot but sources say her mother appears in later episodes and is referred to as Black Canary) and Ashley Scott (“A.I.”, Fox’s “Dark Angel”) as the Huntress/Helena Kyle (reverting to the original comics continuity as the daughter of Batman and Catwoman). Recent casting changes have Sherilyn Fenn (“Twin Peaks”), who was to have played Dr. Harleen Quinzel who eventually becomes the Joker’s companion Harley Quinn, having her scenes reshot and replaced by Mia Sara (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “Time Cop”) because she could not commit to the series.
Now I don’t follow the comics series because it’s so tied up with the Bat-continuity and I don’t want to buy fifty books a month for one story but I know enough to know the show certainly won’t attract viewers to comics, they’ll be hopelessly confused. The most recent BOP I picked up was #42 because of Power Girl.
I’m a big Power Girl fan mostly because of the Justice Society and the 1970s All Star Comics series. That said, this issue read and the horror of what’s been done to the character in the intervening years I think the only writer that should be allowed near her is Paul Levitz. The story in this book, why Power Girl no longer works with Oracle, is good by Chuck Dixon (who should be pounded in the head for getting PG’s secret identity wrong – it’s Karen Starr, not Steele. Hello? What do these DC editors get paid for anyway?), it’s just not my Power Girl.
As long as we’re on the Bat-books, this summer welcomed the long-anticipated sequel to the classic The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. I bought all three issues of The Dark Knight Strikes Again or DK2 at a tragic $7.95 each and am wondering who I see about getting it back. Who said we needed a sequel anyway? The original was just that, original. It had things to say, trends to set, unexplored territory to explore and talent to show off. Unfortunately I think Frank Miller (like Peter David and the Hulk in my last column) has said all he has to say about Batman and should quit while he’s ahead. DK2 is drivel, and a waste of money – for me, for you and for DC cuz I’m sure Miller did not come cheap.
On the other side of the Bat-coin this summer was the Bruce Wayne: Murderer story arc running through all the books. I only picked up the first part; Batman: The 10-Cent Adventure. Ten cents… I find the marketing ploy rather curious considering most comics shops gave these away for free. It’s a great story, the best Batman I’ve read in years, by Greg Rucka. You get the origin, the motivation, brings you up to date in continuity, springs a great cliffhanger to launch this summer’s story arc and entertains as well. As interested as I am to find out what happens I just don’t have the cash to buy all the Bat-books this summer to find out. Shame, cuz the start is terrific.
It was recently announced that Wolfgang Petersen, director of action films like “Air Force One”, “The Perfect Storm”, “Outbreak” and “In The Line of Fire”, was online for preproduction of a film project called “Batman Vs. Superman”. Sadly from interviews it seems the German director knows very little about these two great American icons. It will be based upon the old day vs. night, hero vs. anti-hero cliche which is from a script by the multi-talented Kevin Williamson (“Scream”, “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and “Dawson’s Creek”) which is at least a good sign. Petersen wants to cast unknowns in the title roles rather than actors already established in the parts. It should be noted that there is also a “Batman Year One” (Darren Aronofsky), a live action “Batman Beyond” (Neil Stephenson) and a new “Superman” (McG) all in preproduction and unrelated to this project right now as well.
If we were to do a Batman Vs. Superman as far as comics quality this summer Bats would be the sure winner because the Superman books surely do suck. Over the past months the art has been turning more and more manga. Sorry this is not my Superman, he’s not big eyes and cartoony exaggerated muscles. My Superman is Max Fleischer, Wayne Boring, Curt Swan, even John Byrne or Alex Ross but no how no way manga. If I want that crap I’ll watch one of my videos or read Impulse. It ain’t Superman.
With my thoughts on the deteriorating art stated I’m just going to review the writing on the following books. Superman #178 features a visit to Smallville (do I smell a marketing link here?) and the return of Quality Golden Age great Uncle Sam. Sam has been restored to his original form after a stint as the costumed Patriot (a biiiig mistake in my eyes) and engages Supes in a Marvel Comics style brawl for no apparent reason (shades of the Hulk and the Thing). Superman #182 has Supes saving Lois from various members of the newly-re-formed Suicide Squad (now this is a marketing ploy) like Killer Frost, Solomon Grundy (again? Wow, between the “Justice League” cartoon and the comics this has been one busy summer for old Grundy) and Deadshot. As with the Batman 10-Cent Adventure above both these books have great cliffhangers but are so continuity-heavy in the subplots it kills any desire to pick up the series regularly.
I also picked up Adventures of Superman #603-605 because I’m a sucker for the Crime Syndicate even if they’re not the evil Justice League from Earth Three anymore. Crisis still burns me up, I was five when I was introduced to the concept of parallel Earths (Justice League of America #91 to be precise) and have never had a problem understanding it. I still maintain it was the idiot editors at DC who didn’t do their jobs that were the morons who didn’t understand it, not the readers. Jeez, how did anyone watch “Sliders” if it’s such a hard goshdarn concept???
Post-Crisis the Crime Syndicate now hail from an anti-matter universe which of course makes even less sense than Earth Three thanks to the twisted mind of Grant Morrison (don’t get me started…). Here again, the art… ick. Mirror Mirror is an appropriate title for this trilogy because the manga-ish art has turned into some dark twisted Bizarro version of manga – it hurts my head to look at it, let alone read it. Any coolness the story may have had was destroyed by the visuals. It will be a loooong time before I pick up another Super-book.
For us Superman purists at least there is still Big Bang Comics. These folks specialize in paying homage to the Golden Age and the Silver Age of comics. Their version of Superman, Ultiman, has the Ultiman Giant Annual on the shelves this summer. Set up like the DC 80-Page Giants of the 1960s we get a few Silver Age style stories of Ultiman, a Thundergirl (sort of Mary Marvel meets Supergirl), and a Blackjack and his Flying Aces (Silver Age DC Blackhawks). A great tribute to the comics of the sixties. Ahh, memories… definitely pick this one up.
reprinted from http://www.comicwidows.com
A Television Review of “Birds of Prey”
Copyright 2002 Glenn Walker
Batgirl, the Huntress and the Black Canary? Birds of Prey the comic book this is not.
This very loose comic book adaptation by the folks who brought us “Smallville” (there’s a line about meteor showers thrown in that’s hilarious) is visually stunning. The action sequences (if they could just get rid of that cat howling sound when the Huntress does her stuff they would be perfect) and CGI shots of New Gotham are amazing. You should see it just for that, but there’s more, some of it not so good.
Dina Meyer (Johnny Mnemonic and sooo sexy in Starship Troopers – the scene where she takes off her shirt is permanently engraved in my head) is Barbara Gordon alias Batgirl, crippled by the Joker and now called Oracle, master computer hacker chick. Ashley Scott (A.I., “Dark Angel”) tries really really hard to act as Helena Kyle (hold on, it’s complicated – well, not for comic readers – but most tv viewers are much thicker than comic readers), the Huntress, the daughter of Catwoman and the Batman, who has metahuman strength and reflexes. Rachel Skarsten, a relative unknown plays the role of teenage Dinah Lance (not called the Black Canary – although rumor has it Lori Loughlin, formerly of “Full House” will be appearing as her mother who as the Black Canary was a former ally of Batgirl) who has strange telepathic abilities – woefully unexplained in the pilot.
Rounding out the cast are Ian Abercrombie (Mr. Pitt of “Seinfeld” – which is why I can’t take him seriously) as Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s butler and heartthrob Shemar Moore (“The Brothers,” “Young and the Restless” and if you want to see the website of a man whose ego is completely out of control, check out http://www.shemar.com) as Detective Jake Reese, the David to the Huntress’ Maddie. Mia Sara (Legend, Time Cop) plays the series’ villainess psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel (known in the comics as the Joker’s main squeeze, Harley Quinn) who was originally played by Sherilyn Fenn. All of Fenn’s scenes were re-shot with Sara.
Oracle, the Huntress and Rachel join forces to stop a fear-inducing metahuman from killing innocents (as much as it sounds like the Scarecrow it ain’t). Discounting the complicated backstory this is real simple. The backstory, told in flashbacks (and way too few of them) that are the best part of the show, has the Joker killing Catwoman, crippling Batgirl and driving Batman out of Gotham City. The daughter of Bats and Catty, the Huntress, is taken under Barbara Gordon’s wing where she learns to be a crimefighter. The flashbacks, with the voice of the Joker by Mark Hamill who has perfected the part on the Batman animated series, and the actor from the On Star commercials playing Batman, are by far the best thing about the show. Especially Dina Meyer in the Batgirl costume. She outsexes Yvonne Craig and leaves Alicia Silverstone in the dust, no contest.
If they get rid of the howling, teach Ashley Scott to act, get her a real costume (instead of the Victoria’s Secret get up she wears in the pilot), clear up the convoluted backstory and maybe write some decent scripts this might not be that bad. Rule number one for watching “Birds of Prey” is the same as “Smallville,” forget the comics and it’s enjoyable.
Want to read more of my opinions about comics on television? Check out Comic Widows at: http://www.comicwidows.com.