Universe Lost, Part 4: Family-Friendly Vigilantes

Part 4 of a series. Catch up on Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Tracing the histories of comic book companies in the 1930s and ’40s can be difficult for a number of reasons. Virtually all the first comic book publishers emerged from the business of pulp fiction – cheaply produced, illustrated periodicals that contained serialized stories in a variety of genres, most often science fiction, fantasy, horror, westerns, and detective thrillers. The genres represented in pulp fiction hardly counted as respectable literature, and the people who ran the pulp publishing companies were rarely respectable people.

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Universe Lost, Part 3: Visions of Clowns and Demons

Part 3 of a series. Catch up on “Universe Lost,” Part 1 and Part 2.

When Warner Brothers hired Tim Burton to direct the first Batman feature film in 1986, he had only directed a single motion picture for theatrical release, 1985’s Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, a whimsical low-budget vehicle for an off-beat stand-up comic. It was the work of a director who already had a singular visual style. Burton was capable of producing images that imprinted themselves upon the subconscious of the audience (as young Superadaptoid’s vivid memories of “Large Marge” can attest), so certainly he was well suited to work on a character who, in one of his earliest appearances, described himself as “a creature of the night, black, terrible….”

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Super-Adaptation

A-Kirb-Kin-Adapt-cover

Tales of Suspense #84 (Dec. 1966), art by Jack Kirby

“You know why I like plants? Because they’re so mutable. Adaptation is a profound process. Means you figure out how to thrive in the world.”

— John Laroche (as played by Chris Cooper), Adaptation

In the movie Adaptation, Nicolas Cage’s screenwriter character has to figure out how to adapt a nonfiction book about flowers into a Hollywood movie. He has to somehow transform the story of a horticulturist’s passion for rare plants into something that a movie studio will want to spend millions of dollars on, in hopes that they can then make those millions back – and then some – because people will want to watch that story while eating popcorn in the dark.

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