Q&A: Bob Hall

Q&A: Bob Hall

Armed and DangerousBob Hall started moonlighting drawing and writing comics in the ’70s to subsidize his career in the theater. Between the ’70s and ’90s, he’s drawn and written comics for Marvel, DC, and Valiant Comics, including Spider-Man, The Avengers, Batman, Shadowman, and “Armed and Dangerous,” an original series. His art is currently on exhibit at the Project Room in Lincoln, Nebraska.

How’d you get into comics?

I was in New York wanting to be in theater and realized I needed a marketable skill. I’d always drawn, done posters for the theater department and the student union. Somebody suggested, “why don’t you take a lot at comic books?” This was 1972, it happened to be a particularly great time for comics. There were some brilliant people drawing. I decided I wanted to do it, I worked at it for a couple years trying to learn the craft.

John Buscema, one of Mavel’s top artists (Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four, Conan, pretty much every Marvel book) in two years he taught a class on how to do comics. John liked what I was doing and got me a job at Marvel.

When I got to New York I realized people spent their lives doing two careers. Most people never made a major breakthrough. They would work; they’d have a life in theater, I didn’t want to be a career waiter. I saw a lot of people who’d get a day job in the office and slowly they’d never continue with their main desire. The day job would take over their time, the security would make them afraid to go out and look for work. Maybe I could balance two things? Comics being contract labor, theater being intermittent.

Live blogging 24HCBD

5:23 p.m.
5 Hours in and I have 20 pages scripted and no art. Doom Where’s My Car is on Page 2, and it’s “practically writing itself.”

Fin Fang Doom is on page 4. His main character is dead.

Doom DeLuise is on Page 2 and has decided to incorporate space dinosaurs from the future.

Jim Doom just finished his third page, after a slow start.

Special Guest Doom N’ Gloom is on page 4.

We are running low on snacks.

Live Blogging 24-hour Comic Book Day

12:06 p.m.
It has begun.

Omaha: Krypton Comics

Lincoln: Hiway Diner

So far we’ve got Fin Fang Doom, Doom Where’s My Car, and myself, and a number of locals.

Soon we’ll be joined by Jim Doom and (most likely hungover) Doom DeLuise.

Check back at DoomKopf.com for updates.

World War III: United We Stand

Part four picks up with virtually every DC hero–sans the big three, but including Power Girl’s jubblies–standing at the Great Wall of China while Black Adam wails on China’s Great Ten. The divergent plot lines–the resurrection of the Suicide Squad, Martian Manhunter’s soul searching and Black Adams’s rampage, collide with heart-punching results.

World War II: United We StandGreen Lantern Alan Scott, Hero Emeritus, leads the charge in the most brutal battle since Superboy Prime punched Panthra’s head off in Infinite Crisis #4.

But short of a final page teaser involving a satellite of Monitors (not VGAs), there’s really not a whole lot to WWIII: United We Stand. Sure, some minor heroes you probably don’t care about die. Sure, J’onn J’onzz’s lifestyle change is half-heartedly explained. Ultimately, though, World War III is exposition, presumably for Countdown, which is now only three weeks away, kind of in the same way that Civil War ended up being mostly exposition for the new status quo in the Marvel universe.

DC convinced me to go to the comic book store every week with Infinite Crisis. Finally finding out what led to the One Year Later changes is not really as exciting as you’d have thought. It’s like figuring out how the magician does his magic trick, then seeing that magician turn into a squid-faced, water-armed amnesiac. But damn it if DC didn’t just compel me to make sure I buy Countdown for the next year. Curse you DC!

The Power of Prayer (or netflix, wikipedia and you tube)

So I’ve decided to make the most of my Netflix account by finally adding the most excellent “Batman: the Animated Series” to my queue. And yes, the infinite praises of this show have been sung elsewhere, but I’m sure we’ll post our own thoughts on it in the Hall of Doom someday.

Anyway, I’m watching the sweet “Perchance to Dream” episode, you know, the one where the Mad Hatter has Bats trapped in a dream machine, dreaming the perfect life where Bruce’s parents are still alive, he’s CEO of Wayne Enterprises and engaged to Selina (rawwrrrrrrr) Kyle.

Then I notice something about the voice of benign pediatrician Leslie Thompkins. It sounds so familar and yet I can’t quite place it, but thanks to wikipedia I have my answer in a minute.

Thompkins was voiced by Diana Muldaur–that’s right–the same Dr. Pulaski who replaced Beverly Crusher in season two of “Star Trek: the Next Generation.” And no, I won’t answer questions about why I love STNG so much.

What the hell is my point? That also thanks to wikipedia, I found this on youtube:

It’s an animated tribute, pretty much verbatim, to the mutant fight scene in “The Dark Knight Returns” from an episode of “The New Batman Adventures.”

In conclusion, god bless the internets.

The Superman Returns problem

The opening credits really revealed the true agenda of this movie: Returning the Richard Donner Superman franchise. This was a love note to the first two Supes movies instead of a love note to the characters that inspired those films. On that level, it succeeds, because like those movies, Superman Returns is boring, stilted, awkward, and generally just gets things very very wrong.

No i’ll admit: i harbor a very strong pro-batman bias. And there were signficant changes in character backgrounds in Batman Begins, but the reason the work is because they still stay true to the motivation, and by extension, the predictable actions of the characters that were adapted to the film. Sure, Ra’as Al Ghul might not have been a 1000 year old bedouin genocidal maniac in BB as he was in comics, but his basic character attributes were still in tact: feels humanity is inherently evil and that it is his moral duty to purge it perodically, and he feels so because he tragically lost his wife. This same consistency between the film and comic verisons was executed in every character in Batman Begins. Except for Rachel Dawes, who never existed in comics, and that’s why you see her nipping out in every scene.

And yet in “Superman Returns,” we have a number of glaring inconsistencies. Firstly, Superman abandons earth for selfish reasons. Sure, anyone would want to see the remains of their home alien planet, but I don’t think anyone who’s ever read a single comic book would tell you that Superman actually would leave earth, however temporarily, without leaving another champion to carry the torch. Like a Superman robot or Jimmy Olsen aided by the power of mystical Nordic artifacts.

Lois would not bone the boss’s nephew apparently days after Superman left. And don’t give me that business that Richard White may have been her rebound guy–if there’s one single female character that’s shown repeatedly she can get along fine without any man, it’s Lois Lane, the embodiment of piss and vinegar independence.

Lex Luthor was too gaudy. Sure, he’s a smartass, but the kind that makes you terrfied of what he can do with a phone call, not the kind who provides comic relief via wigs. The most accurate Lex Luthor moment in the film is when, after the guy from “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” drops the sun stone (excuse me, crystal) in the train set sea. And once it starts bubbling, Lex quietly steps back, not warning his cronies because he’s curious what exploding crystal will do to supervillian stooge who shops at Urban Outfitters.

So I guess it all boils down to this: “Superman Returns” excelled at recreating the “Superman” movies. And yet it fails utterly as a Superman movie. “Superman Returns” brushes over the most compelling charater trait that has made Big Blue a Superarchetype for the past 60 years, but beyond that, just a fascinating character that is so easily misunderstood. Superman is three people.

There is the hero, Superman: confident, loved by the people of Metropolis, but burdened by the guilt that even though he’s freakin’ Superman, he can’t save everybody all the time.

There is Kal-El, the last son of Krypton, whose heritage exploded millions of lightyears away. And no matter how much he tries to fit in, he knows he’s not human and can never relate to anyone he will ever meet.

And then there’s Clark Kent, the bumbling, polite product of a romanticized Kansas but with the sharp intuition, instincts and reasoning skills befitting a reporter of what is basically the world’s capitol.

But that’s not what “Superman Returns” is. It’s a guy looking like Christopher Reeve with personal problems like Peter Parker. And that’s why “Superman Returns” isn’t a good Superman movie.

The West needs midgets (“Loveless”)

Spaghetti Westerns and their American counterparts brought much to a genre that was nearing irrelevance by the mid-60s, when Sergio Leone released “A Fistfull of Dollars.” They dispensed with the silly white hat/black hat view of morality for a much more ambiguous, and bloody, take on the most romantically perceived segment of American history, instead favoring badasses with twin revolvers and a badassier gimmick. Sergio Corbucci’s “Django” has Franco Nero lugging a machine gun around in a coffin. “The Great Silence” features a mute bounty hunter who hunts bounty hunters. “The Wild Bunch” has Ernest Borgnine, and perhaps most notably, “High Plains Drifter” has rapist/Spectre-esque agent of vengeance Clint Eastwood force a town at gunpoint to make a midget both mayor and sheriff.

“Loveless” is Brian Azzarello and Marcello Frusin’s take on nihlistic, super-violent spaghetti westerns, and for a team that first did nihlistic, super-violent John Constatine in “Hellblazer,” that kinda makes sense.

Azzarello’s big time into genre, as anybody who’s ever read “100 Bullets,” especially “the Hard Way” or “The Counterfifth Detective” arcs on that book could tell you, and his love for the Revisionist Western in “Loveless” is clear. Wes Cutter is an ex-confederate soldier returning home from the Civil War (think John Wayne in “The Searchers” but with less hygeine and racism). Cutter’s land has annexed by corrupt Union soldiers, most likely sold out by his greedy, shady friends. Meanwhile, across town more corrupt Union soldiers seize more land that isn’t theirs.

Cutter’s situation may be awkward, but it isn’t supposed to be sympathetic. By taking away his land/pride/friends/etc. Azzarello doesn’t want us to feel for Cutter, he just wants us to know that Cutter doesn’t really have a place to call home, which hopefully means he’ll just end up shooting a lot of people in every issue.

Cutter does have some great gimmicks, though.Aside from having the requsite crack-shot pistol talents, a buzzard, nature’s vulture, follows Cutter around, knowing he’ll leave plenty of delicious lead-riddled corpses behind. And his wife dresses like a man.

“Loveless” captures the pacing and cinematography of the Leone Westerns with Frusin’s careful panel sequences. The opening shootout features pages of dialogue with more build-up to the brief violence than panels spent portraying the violence itself, smaller panels pulling in for tight detail close-ups of grizzled faces and hands reaching patiently for revolvers. It’s pretty much the closest comic equivalent to Leone-style showdowns in “Once Upon a Time in the West” or “the Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” where, literally, five minutes of extreme close-ups climax in about three seconds of shooting while a melodramatic yet unbelievable awesome Ennio Morricone score swells in the background. In fact, “Loveless” would probably be better if it came with a miniature device that played Morricone as you read it. Oh yeah, and Cutter says “Fucksticks.” When was the last time you heard John Wayne say that? (not counting the deleted scenes from “Cahill”).

But “Loveless” introduces so many characters in one issue that it’s partly disorienting. Townspeople, and especially a crusty old saloon patron seem only like props instead of multi-dimensional characters, but then with any luck they’ll get a little more multi-dimensional in future issues. Or shot. Either way, really.

Aside from creating tons of sweet movies, Revisionist Westerns also provided two additional stellar contributions to pop culture: more film roles for crazed German Klaus Kinski, and in-joke fodder for “Back to the Future III,” so clearly “Loveless” has big boots to fill.