Tuesday, June 21, 2005


I am not typically into comic books--or graphic novels, as I hear they prefer to be called. In the 80's however--just as I was being ravaged by adolescence, Frank Miller's wonderful THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS came out. Suddenly, comics were considered art not camp and I started drawing Batman in the margins of all my school notebooks.

BATMAN BEGINS is a vision of Batman in the tradition of Miller's Dark Knight--forever leaving behind the technicolor antics of the 60's television show. Fans of Miller's Dark Knight graphic novels (like me) had long been hoping for a film that was more dark and more grounded what was always the central thread in the Batman canon--that he was an ordinary man made extra-ordinary by his own quest for revenge.

Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale have turned this beloved icon on his cape. Batman is portrayed as a complex bag of swirling and dueling emotions. Bale's Bruce Wayne is sometimes petulant, sometimes self-righteous but always solid in his resolve. He is, at times, hard to like. Bale transforms from the younger, simpering misanthropic Wayne to the cool "alter-ego" of later life with believability. Always under the surface, however, one gets a sense that there is a boiling anger that is just waiting for a moment to burst forth. Bale's intensity is something to behold (why wasn't he Anakin Skywalker?). In one scene he is confronting mob boss Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) in a restaurant. Sitting in the booth across from Falcone, Bale's expression is almost a poker-face. As he speaks, his lips barely move--his voice is hardly above a whisper. He appears as though he could, at any moment, either burst into tears or launch himself across the table and tear Falcone's throat out with his teeth. His transformation into the Dark Knight is why the audience cares--why they/we are there. When he finally does don the cowl and cape--over halfway into the movie, the audience is well primed for what follows. Christopher Nolan deprives his audience the payoff of seeing Bruce in the final batsuit until the last possible moment. Even when he emerges in his full glory--he doesn't FULLY emerge. The kinetic fight scenes where the newly born Batman is fighting several thugs is at once both chaotic and beautiful. Batman is a ghost moving among the men, clobbering them--dropping them with a flurry of kicks and punches. His cape flutters about, shrouding him from sight and meshing him with the shadows in a seamless fashion so that you're never quite sure where Batman is and the shadows aren't. The wonderful tableaus of him perched atop buildings (an admitted cliche' in most comic themed films) mark him as somehow part of the very surroundings. The visual look of this film has more in common with the final scenes of BLADE RUNNER thyan it does Tim Burton's original.

This re-imagining (a term currently all the rage in Hollywood) of Batman is a triumph in many ways. This is no franchise movie. There isn't any real obnoxious product placeement to speak of--no Burger King tie-ins. BATMAN BEGINS succeeds much MUCH more than it fails and it's few failures can be forgiven on the whole (the whole "poisoning-of-the-water-system" plot is not very isnpired). BATMAN BEGINS soars.

I would like to take a little moment to address the moral/spiritual issues of BATMAN BEGINS. Personally, I am troubled by any personal journey that is motivated by vengance masquerading as justice--and the film addresses those issues somewhat. The notion of redemptive violence--when the hero exacts justice through the violent destruction of his enemy, is counter to everything I believe personally. Batman is a troubling figure--especially in this day and age where people somehow seem justified acting as vigilantes against the "criminal element" in the war on terror. Compassion, empathy--these are themes that are admirably addressed sporadically in BATMMAN BEGINS. They are discarded ultimately as the film slips into action-movie-mode. Still, it does deliver and it's worth a look nonetheless.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


This is an illustration in a series that I am doing for a guy in Alabama. The site is a tribute to the Second Emergency Rescue Squadron. Their mission was to act as rescue support for fighters and bombers in the Pacific during WWII. They flew giant PBY aircraft which were basically giant flying boats. These planes would swoop down and rescue downed flyers who made the unfortuneate decision to ditch in the Pacific Ocean. It was an incredible mission--considering that theirs was a mission to save as many lives as possible, not take them. WWII aviation has long been an interest of mine.

These illustrations are meant to illustrate the different uniforms and accoutrements worn by the pilots and crew. They also happen to be a caricature of the site administrator, Jim Teegarden's uncle Gary. In addition to running the website, Jim is a flight instructor at Ft. Rucker Al.. He's a great guy and this is a wonderful tribute to his uncle and fellow flyers. I hope y'all take a minute to check out the website. It's simply amazing. It's possible to get totally lost in it for hours! The volume of photographs is probably one of the best collections of WWII photos I've ever seen. This has been one deleriously fun project and I hope I am able to continue working with Jim.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


I thought that I would get back to my ruminations on REVENGE OF THE SITH while I still had it fresh in my mind.

As I mentioned before, I don't feel like I can really offer a bona fide "critique" of this film given how much the STAR WARS saga has permeated my psyche... I will do my best, however, to try and process what I can.

First, it has become somewhat fashionable for some of my friends out there in blogland--as well as in the print media, to foolishly dismiss this film out of hand as another in a series of silly or unimportant popcorn movies. One thing that we ALL must agree on is that STAR WARS--whatever you may think of the films, is indeed culturally and socially significant. As cool as it my be to sniff and guffaw the onslaught as some kind of mass Jungian hysteria, it is IMPOSSIBLE to deny the impact the films have had. So, roll your eyes and harumph and laugh at the legion of costumed fans waiting in line... It doesn't change the simple and irrefutable fact that STAR WARS is an incredible cultural phenomenon.

Now, that isn't to say that there aren't problems with the films or film, in the case of SITH. As much as I liked the last film (it was the best of the prequel and ranks below EMPIRE in my top three) it definitely had it's weaknesses...

Acting. Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, and Natalie Portman all did the best they could with what they had to work with--that is, that is some of the most stilted dialogue ever written for the screen. Lucas has often said that these films are a throwback to the old serials of the 40's and 50's where the acting was indeed broad and the dialogue melodramatic. Indeed. --Dammit,... I have to go again... I will continue this at a later time... I have a doctor's appointment to be off to.


Sorry I've been a wee bit out of the loop here lately. I've been too busy to breathe--AND my wife and I are expecting which is exciting so I have been sort of preoccupied trying to drum up some freelance here and there... Anyway... Ward sent me this today and I thought I'd give it a shot...

Total volume of music files on my computer:
Old G3: 2 GB
Powerbook G4: 2.5 GB

Last CD I bought was Jack Johnson "Brushfire Fairytales"

Song Playing right now:
"Portland Oregon" by Loretta Lynn and Jack White

Five songs I listen to a lot--or that mean a lot to me:
"Forever My Friend" by Ray LaMontagne
"Hard Times Come Again No More" by Eastmountainsouth
"Feelin Better" by Hank Jr.
"Mary" by Patty Griffin
"Bubble Toes" Jack Johnson

Passing the baton to Kristi