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Posts Tagged ‘The Flash’

Back With A Flash

May 18th, 2015 No comments

The Flash has long been one of my favorite superheroes. He’s got a cool costume and an amazingly versatile superpower that allows him to pass through walls, run across water, and even travel through time. His colorful gallery of foes is unusual in that they behave as a sort of tradesmen’s association of villainy. (They even share a tailor!)

I was a fan of the short-lived live-action TV series from 1990 starring John Wesley Shipp as the speedster and the delicious Amanda Pays as his scientific sidekick Tina McGee.

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While it was clearly influenced by Tim Burton’s Batman–as well as Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy–CBS executives were skittish about going full comic-book. That’s why in early episodes the Flash found himself in decidedly one-sided conflicts against garden-variety gangsters. Eventually the network came around and the show began to introduce the Flash’s “rogues,” including a pretty decent Captain Cold and a rather dire Mirror Master played by…David Cassidy?

Then there was Mark Hamill’s career-reviving pair of appearances as the maniacal Trickster, which served as a dry run for his iconic turn as the voice of the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series.

Flash-forward a quarter century, and there’s a new Scarlet Speedster in Central City. From the producers of Arrow, the CW’s take on fellow DC hero Green Arrow, this rebooted Flash TV show is an enormously satisfying slice of Silver Age comics heroics.

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Obviously, the creative team were also fans of the John Wesley Shipp series. Not only have they taken the inevitable step of hiring Shipp to play the Flash’s dad, they’ve brought back Amanda Pays as Tina McGee and Mark Hamill as the Trickster.

And yet, there are two big differences between the shows. One is that the special effects are–not unexpectedly–far superior. The original did well with 1990 effects technology, though the switch to a green screen background made it easy to tell when the Flash was about to shift into superspeed. The current incarnation takes full advantage of modern FX tech, enabling the Flash to run up walls, create vortices of air, and vibrate through solid objects.

The other difference is that the producers have fully embraced the comic-bookness of the concept. Not only have there been the usual shoutouts to obscure DC comics characters (Ralph Dibney, Simon Stagg, etc.), but over the course of this first season they’ve introduced recognizable versions of most of the classic “rogues,” including Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Weather Wizard, Rainbow Raider, Golden Glider, Pied Piper…and freakin’ Gorilla Grodd. In 1990, we got David Cassidy and some mirrors; in 2015 there’s a giant, telepathic gorilla on network TV.

rogues

And of course, there’s also the season-long story arc featuring Tom Cavanaugh as futuristic nemesis Eobard Thawne, aka the Reverse-Flash. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to hear the name Eobard Thawne on a live-action TV show, much less spoken by the guy who used to play a bowling alley lawyer.

Tomorrow night is the season finale, in which the Flash races through time to save his mother and, quite possibly, to muck up his own reality.

Next year promises even more superhero fan service, with a Supergirl series starring the adorable Melissa Benoist, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, in which “time master” Rip Hunter recruits a team of heroes and villains to combat immortal archfoe Vandal Savage.

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Gone In A Flash

April 5th, 2013 No comments

My Facebook news feed was in overdrive yesterday with the passing of film critic Roger Ebert. An Urbana native, he maintained close ties to the community and sponsored an annual film festival that became the biggest event* in our twin cities.

I had the opportunity to meet Roger in person a couple of times, most recently in 2000 when we trekked up to Chicago to record an interview with him for the movie review show that I used to produce.

By that time Ebert had spent many hours in front of television cameras, and was, of course, entirely professional. As someone who grew up watching the original Sneak Previews on WTTW-TV, I found it impossible not to be awed.

A year or two after this interview, I began to be puzzled and annoyed by Ebert’s reviews. He would fixate on picayunish flaws.** He would serve as an outlier on films as widely-praised as the 2009 Star Trek reboot and as thoroughly panned as Nicolas Cage’s Knowing. And then there was his stubbornly ignorant stance on the question of whether video games could be considered art.

Of course, the reason that his opinions perturbed me far more than those of, say, Richard Roeper was the recognition that he was our preeminent film critic–arguably our preeminent critic, period. What he said mattered, even if I thought it was dead wrong.

And few people loved movies more, or did more to promote the appreciation of film, than did Roger Ebert. He might have hated, hated, hated certain films, but that burning rage was borne out of his beliefs that movies could and should be more. He will be missed.

Another great who passed on yesterday was a legend of the Golden and Silver Ages of comic books, penciller Carmine Infantino. His first story for DC Comics in 1947 introduced the Black Canary, a villainess who eventually became one of the industry’s best-known superheroines.

But it was his work on the Silver Age version of The Flash that made his reputation. Infantino was superb at selling the incredible velocity of the crimebuster, depicting him as a series of red-and-yellow after-images.

Later he was the regular artist of Marvel’s Star Wars comics, drawing most every issue during the years between the original film and the release of The Empire Strikes Back.

Infantino’s death is the severing of one of the few remaining ties to comics’ early days.

*The next Ebertfest is less than two weeks from now. No one has said whether they will continue beyond 2013, but I suspect that, given Roger’s failing health, contingency plans must have been considered.

**Really, there were plenty of good reasons to dislike The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but Ebert’s criticism was mostly about its inaccurate depiction of Venice. In a movie in which Mr. Hyde and Captain Nemo fight Professor Moriarty.