Friday, 25 November 2011

Episode 14. BATMAN RETURNS (1992)

It's probably either your favourite of the Batman films, or your least favourite - it's Tim Burton's very Tim Burton-y Batman Returns, and it's the subject of this episode of 24 Panels Per Second. With guest James Hrivnak, Dru and Dave waddle through the film's sewers like so many rocket-equipped anamatronic penguins. Join us, won't you?

Episode breakdown:
0:00 - 6:54: Intro banter (iTunes problems, The Dark Knight Rises rumours)
6:54 - 7:58: Batman Returns trailer
7:58 - 1:08:49: Main discussion: Batman Returns
1:08:49 - 1:14:49: Dave Ricci on Batman: Arkham City
1:14:49 - 1:18:15: Closing remarks

Send all feedback to Stay up to date with our blog at Follow us on Twitter @24panels. Like us on Facebook. And don't forget to subscribe in iTunes!

Additional links:
Check out Dave R's excellent podcast, The Shoebox Song Hour.
Read James' review of Batman Returns.

NEXT EPISODE: 30 Days of Night...

Monday, 21 November 2011


It’s that time again folks! This week, we kick off our winter series of films with the 1992 Tim Burton film, Batman Returns!

Now, you are all familiar with Batman (you are familiar with Batman, right?), so we are just going to take a look at the history of the film’s villains, Catwoman and the Penguin!

Catwoman made her first appearance in Batman #1 from 1940 as “the Cat,” a standard issue burglar with no costume. This would change shortly thereafter in Batman #3, though to be honest, her first mask was perhaps a little too on the nose.
Anyways, Catwoman is Selina Kyle, a thief who has enjoyed a flirtatious relationship with the caped crusader ever since her first appearance. This relationship is well captured in this silent animated short, Chase Me:

Origins for the character differ from version to version, including one in which she turns to crime due to a blow to the head (I kid you not). The more familiar origin of recent years is one in which she is a prostitute who is inspired (in part) by the presence of Batman to begin her career as a thief with a theme.

The character has made plenty of appearances in other media, including in the 1960s Batman TV series as played by Julie Newmar…

…and in the 1968 Batman animated series. I can’t help but love how the villains send Batman and Robin gimmicky valentines:

The Penguin would show up roughly a year after Catwoman first appeared, in Detective Comics # 58. The character was inspired either by emperor penguins, if you believe co-creator Bill Finger, or by the Kool Cigarette ads of the 1940s, if you believe credited Batman creator Bob Kane. The character, whose real name is Oswald Cobblepot, originally appeared as a thief with a bird gimmick.

In Batman Returns, the Penguin’s story involves him entering into politics as he seeks to be the mayor of Gotham. This was not the first time he ran for political office however, as this clip from the 1960s Batman series attests to:

Burgess Meredith's Penguin was the villain to appear most often in the 1960s series, including in the 1966 feature film version of the program. These appearances established the character as one of the most iconic of Batman’s foes. A radically different interpretation of the character appears in Burton’s film, and in the classic 1990s television show, Batman: The Animated Series.

These foes are not the only one Batman has to contend with in Batman Returns however, with crooked millionaire Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) manipulating events throughout the film. The character has no basis in the comics, but the name comes from famous silent film star Friedrich Gustav Max Schreck, whose most famous work has to be his performance as Count Orlok in Nosferatu (1922):

But enough with the history of the characters! Check back with us soon for our discussion of Batman Returns!

What If? SPIDER-MAN (1986)

[Most casual fans of comic book films probably don't realize that almost every major comic book adaptation has gone through what the industry has termed "development hell." The column 'What If?' looks at our favourite heroes trapped in a "developmental Phantom Zone," if you will. This first edition looks at the Cannon Films' Spider-Man.]

The first big screen appearance of Spider-Man didn't come to fruition until Sam Raimi's excellent 2002 film, yet Marvel had been pushing for a film based on everyone's favourite neighbourhood web-slinger for nearly two decades. After the film rights to Spider-Man bounced around for a few years between Columbia Pictures and Roger Corman, they fell into the hands of Israeli producing duo Golan/Globus. The two were the heads of Cannon Films, a studio notorious for low-budget, schlocky action films.

When they acquired the rights to the character, screenwriter Leslie Stevens (TV's Buck Rogers, Return to the Blue Lagoon) began work on a script which radically changed the character. Peter Parker would have worked for the Zyrex Corporation, and would have been an unsuspecting pawn in an experiment by the evil Dr. Zyrex. Doused with radiation, Parker became a mutant of sorts, described as a half-man, half-tarantula. At this point in time, Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper was to helm the project.

Stan Lee rejected the story, Stevens and Hooper left the project when a new draft was commissioned. Scheduled for a Christmas 1986 release, Spider-Man was written by Ted Newsom (Evil Spawn) and John Brancato (The Game, Catwoman), and directed by Joseph Zito (Friday the 13th: The Final ChapterMissing in Action). This new script (which you can actually read here) is more faithful to the source material, and pits Spidey against Dr. Octopus, with Liz Allen as a love interest. Spidey's origin is close to the one in the comics, though now it's tied to the ill-fated experiment that creates Doc Ock. Cannon were really gearing up for this, spendig as much as $2 million on pre-production, and going so far as prematurely releasing a teaser trailer (using music from Richard Donner's Superman).

The film was to star stunt man Scott Leva as Peter Parker and Bob Hoskins as Doc Ock (though Hoskins never actually committed to the film). Some comics readers may remember the cover of The Amazing Spider-Man issue #262 from March, 1985 and wonder what that was all about. Well, it was a promo still of Leva as Spidey (in some tight, tight jeans). The Christmas '86 release date came and went without Spider-Man, theoretically disappointing millions of fans who had heard rumblings of the film and seen the teaser. For reasons not fully known (but probably attributed to budget complications, disapproval from Stan Lee) by the end of 1986, the project went on hiatus and Zito jumped ship. In the interim, Cannon produced another comic book film, the proverbial nail-in-the-coffin that is Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

Sometime around 1989, the whole thing landed in the lap of director Albert Pyun who stayed with the project for another couple of drafts, where Doc Ock was dropped as the villain and replaced by The Night Ghoul, a vampire-like creature (not dissimilar to Morbius, just lamer, I suppose). Yet another draft was written, this one dropping The Night Ghoul in favour of a new villain known as "Doc," (not of the Octopus variety) peddling a dangerous new drug known as "T-Devil." Finally, the whole thing was shelved, though producer Menahem Golan and director Pyun did bring another superhero to the screen with 1990's Captain America.

The property left the Cannon Film Group in 1990 and was picked up by Carolco, where James Cameron became involved. But that's a whole other tangled web...

(see what I did there?)

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Episode 13. GHOST RIDER (2007)

Dru and David were not up to the challenge of reviewing Ghost Rider by themselves, so they called in the calvary: special guest and Ghost Rider fan William Hart. Will helps Dru and David to navigate decades of complicated Ghost Rider comics continuity in an attempt to figure out exactly how director and screenwriter Mark Steven Johnson came up with this film. As a bonus, regular contributor Jeremy Woodcock chimes in with his thoughts on the trailer for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance! Will it have been worth sitting through the first Ghost Rider film? It's certainly worth listening to the whole episode of 24 Panels Per Second to get to Jeremy! Stream the episode here!

Email your comments to Follow us on Twitter @24panels (and why not use hashtag #24panels while you're at it?). Read our blog at Like us on Facebook and subscribe to the show in iTunes.

Episode breakdown:
0:00 - 3:42: Intro banter
3:42 - 4:33: Ghost Rider trailer
4:33 - 1:00:57: Main discussion: Ghost Rider (with guest William Hart)
1:00:57 - 1:05:43: Jeremy Woodcock on the Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance trailer
1:05:43 - 1:11:57: Closing comments

Next episode: Batman Returns...

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Preview Post: GHOST RIDER

24 Panels will soon be back to wrap up our Marvel-ous Halloween series with the 2007 film Ghost Rider! OK, we are a bit late, but we will be back to a more regular schedule soon!

So what is the history of the Ghost Rider? Well, it is a little….complicated. To go all the way back to the beginning, there was Ghost Rider # 1 from 1967 which introduced the world to… Carter Slade, the 19th century cowboy who took up wearing a costume to fight crime as the Ghost Rider.

So iconic and powerful was this character, that his comic was cancelled after seven issues. He does appear in the film, but very little of the character in the comics translates over.

Anyway, the Ghost Rider you’re probably most familiar with (well, probably - we’ll get to that in a second) is Johnny Blaze, who debuted in Marvel Spotlight # 5 in 1972. When his stepfather Crash Simpson is diagnosed with cancer, Johnny Blaze, a young motorcycle stunt man, sells his soul to the devil in exchange for Crash getting his health back. Crash recovers, but the deal turns out to be a trick: Crash dies in a stunt jump gone wrong shortly after his health is restored.

When the Devil comes to collect Johnny’s soul, he is saved by the love of Crash’s daughter, Roxanne. As revenge however, the devil bonds Johnny with a demon called Zarathos, and became the Ghost Rider, a force to punish the wicked on Earth at the Devil’s beck and call, transforming into the skulled creature covered in flames whenever he is in the presence of evil. In the 1970s, the character looked like this:

While the film is based on the Blaze character, it does take elements, and the look, from a Ghost Rider which came later: Danny Ketch, who first appeared in Ghost Rider #1 in 1990. Ketch is the first to have the leather jacket, spikes and chain look that has become the defining image of the character. In this version, Ketch and his sister are attacked one night in their hometown of New York by a local gang, leading to Ketch hiding in a garbage dump. While there, he finds a motorcycle with a sigil gas cap. When the sigil is touched, Ketch transforms into the Ghost Rider, who pretty much has the same powers as before, save for two major differences: he possesses the “penance stare” in which he can force his enemies to feel all the pain and suffering they have caused others, and a chain which possesses magical powers.

Oh, and by the late 1990s, Marvel decided to have him wear… this:

Anyways, it was the Ketch version which appeared in various media during the 1990s, first in a half-second appearance on the X-Men animated series, and then on the Fantastic Four cartoon, voiced by the man and legend, Richard Grieco, of 21 Jump Street fame. This clip from the episode in which he appears might just be one of the most awesome things to ever come out of Saturday morning cartoons:

The Grieco Ghost Rider would once again appear in animation, this time in the Sunday morning UPN animated Incredible Hulk TV series:

Ketch will apparently be featured in the upcoming Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance as a child character that is central to the plot.

As noted though, it was the Blaze character who would star in the 2007 film, from director Mark Steven Johnson. Who is Johnson? Why, he is the writer behind such classics as Big Bully and Grumpy Old Men:

And to be fair, he was also the writer and director of the 2003 Marvel film Daredevil, which we’ll get to one of these days:

But first things first, and that is Ghost Rider! So join us next episode, and remember: selling your soul to the devil might sound like a good idea, but you will always pay a price. Unless you’re Spider-Man.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


Ever since that tag on the end credits of 2008's Iron Man, the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe has been building towards the big team-up film The Avengers, and Joe Johnston's Captain America: The First Avenger is the final stop before that film's summer 2012 release.

The primary action of Captain America occurs during the height of the U.S.'s involvement in World War II. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans, formerly The Human Torch from Fantastic Four and its sequel) is small, asthmatic, and weak, but by golly, does he love the good ol' U-S-of-A. So much so he's attempted to sign up for service overseas no less than five times, and each time rejected because he's, well, small, asthmatic, and weak. At the funnest looking fun fair this side of Disney World, Rogers meets German emigrant scientist Abraham Erskine (an always welcome Stanley Tucci), who selects the young lad for a "super-soldier" experiment. The experiment is a success and Rogers becomes insanely buff and strong, yet, after a German spy infiltrates and kills Erskine, he becomes relegated to a cog in the propaganda machine selling war bonds, now dubbed Captain America. While doing a USO show in Italy, Cap leads an unsanctioned mission to rescue captured soldiers. Here the Army learns of the Red Skull's plans for World Domination. Can Cap and his ragtag squad of colourful personalities save democracy?