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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

More of the Same Hollywood Story

A few weeks back, I posted what comics fan magazine Amazing Heroes had to say about the undeveloped Justice League International television project of 1990. You may recall that the reviewer was not impressed.

However, over the weekend, I was reading a different old comics fan magazine, Comics Scene, and found a second opinion.

In Comics Scene Volume 2, #46, 1994, I came across Frank Garcia's interview with one of the creators of that project, screenwriter Jeff Freilich. In this article, Freilich brags, "The guys who do the JLA title asked us to write issues because they thought we wrote the characters so accurately." Sure, I suppose that could have happened.

Freilich also had thoughts about who should play the heroes:

Playing casting director for a moment, [Jeff] Freilich considers who they might have signed aboard the Justice League.

"Very often the case in television, when fantasizing casting, we would way, ‘We want a young Bruce Willis' and then go out and look for those people," says Freilich. Not prone to stunt casting, Freilich prefers unknowns for many of the heroes. However, if JLA were to be treated as a feature, the game becomes more fun.

"With a cast that large, you can't really afford to use feature film actors," says Freilich. "It's not a question of expense, by the way, it's a question of commitment. If a person is a movie star, they generally don't want to commit to a TV series. They wouldn't be able to work on movies."

When it's suggested that Sam (Jurassic Park) Neill would be a good Maxwell Lord, Freilich lights up and responds positively. "Sam Neill would be a very good Max. When we wrote Justice League, Neill was an unknown. He has done so many things in the last few years. He would be a superb Max Lord."

For Mr. Miracle's boisterous, loudmouthed manager, Oberon, Billy (Willow) Barty (STARLOG #130) snatches the role. "A young version of Billy Barty [would be better]," said Freilich. "He's a bit old. There are quite a few excellent small actors. It's just unfortunate there are very rarely parts for them. Billy Barty is the person you have in mind immediately."

Offering a surprising suggestion for Mr. Miracle, Frielich thinks real-life escape artist David Copperfield would do the job well.

"When they picked Bill Bixby for The Magician, he was already an amateur magician," the writer explains. "When they cast Burt Lancaster as a trapeze artist [in the 1956 film Trapeze], he was an acrobat and an aerial artist before becoming an actor. It always makes sense with someone and using the stunt double throughout. [Performing magic] is difficult to teach people. You have to have a talent for that kind of stuff."

For the two witty male leads, Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, Freilich envisions a young Woody Allen for Beetle and a young Bruce Willis type for Booster. He says Mark Hamill might do Booster's role well, due to its similarity to his portrayal of the Trickster in The Flash. "But I don't know if we would have gone with Hamill or someone new," Freilich muses.

Bruce Willis? Yippee-ki-yay, Booster boosters.

Comments (2) | Add a Comment | Tags: comics scene frank garcia jeff freilich justice league international movies

Friday, November 24, 2023

My Favorite Pages: Justice League Intl 16

My Favorite Pages

In Justice League International #16, a crack team goes undercover on a mission of international espionage.

Maybe "crack team" is a bit of an overstatement, especially when Booster Gold and Blue Beetle are involved.

© DC Comics

Page 6 is chock full of references to classic movies in television. Peter Lupus was a bodybuilder and actor in the original Mission: Impossible television series. And Beetle has assumed the identity of George Bailey, famous worldwide as the protagonist character from the classic film It's a Wonderful Life.

Interestingly, Beetle looks less like Wonderful Life actor Jimmy Stewart and more like silent film comedy star Harold Lloyd. I don't think this is an accident.

This often-silly issue explicitly namechecks the comedy duo of Bud Abbot and Lou Costello, and unless I am very wrong, that's Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel (in a fez) watching Booster fumble the luggage in the fifth panel of page 6. Those two were experts in mishandling packages, as hilariously recorded in 1932's The Music Box.

Having Beetle dress as the clock-dangling star of 1923's Safety Last! is a nice nod to the silent era of Hal Roach Studios comedies as much as it is to Clark Kent's famous glasses disguise... which Superman's creators Jerry Siegel and Joel Shuster modeled on Harold Lloyd. That's a full circle disguise!

Comments (2) | Add a Comment | Tags: favorite pages. blue beetle harold lloyd

Monday, November 20, 2023

Battle of the Sexes

This week is Thanksgiving, the American holiday when we count our blessings. Unfortunately, Booster boosters are going to have to look somewhere other than their Local Comic Shops for their bounty this season, as DC has released their February 2024 solicitations with nary a Booster Gold in sight.

But one cover does get oh-so close.

© DC Comics

As you can see, the Terry Dodson cover for Fire & Ice: Welcome to Smallville #6 homages the Adam Hughes cover to Justice League America #34 with Fire and Ice lounging for some rest and relaxation in the way that Blue Beetle and Booster Gold did on the original.

But since Fire was in the role of reluctant serving wench on the original cover, it seem the tables should have been fully turned, and Booster (or Beetle) should have had to serve the ladies this time around. Instead, poor alien robot L-Ron gets the chore as Club JLI Smallville burns behind them.

Is no Booster better than an amusingly subservient butler Booster? I'll let you be the judge.

In the meantime, you can see pictures of all the covers for DC's February 2024 solicitations at

Comments (1) | Add a Comment | Tags: adam hughes fire ice justice league international l-ron solicitations terry dodson

Friday, November 10, 2023

My Favorite Pages: Justice League Annual 2

My Favorite Pages

"Hit or Miss" in Justice League International Annual #2 is half slice-of-life dramedy, half crime farce. It's a little silly, even by Justice League International standards, but I'd rather read Joker stories like this than something where he cuts off his own face or tricks Superman into killing Lois Lane or.... well, almost any modern Joker story.

I'm certainly biased, but I think the highlight of the story is the subplot about Booster Gold and Blue Beetle hustling for new careers.

© DC Comics

I admit this page isn't the flashiest, but that "And then, of course, there's all that money," punchline gets me every time.

Honestly, "Repo Man" is a pretty inspired choice for two former capitalist titans fallen on hard times. If they can't have their own fast cars and private jets, they're happy to take them from others. Very heroic, boys.

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Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Amazing Hollywood Stories

I was recently perusing some back issues of Amazing Heroes magazine. I've previously reported on their disparaging review of Booster Gold's debut issue, but I found something else that Booster boosters might find interesting.

That something, as reported in Amazing Heroes #188, 1991, is Andy Mangels' "Backstage" column recap of an unfilmed 1990 Justice League movie script. Read on and you'll see why.

The Justice League of America

January 25, 1990 - James Cappe and David Arnott, teleplay; Jeff Freilich, James Cappe, and David Amott, story.

Planned for a two-hour telefilm, the Justice League script went thru four rewrites before the current plans were scrapped. Magnum Productions was working on the film for Lorimar, and was hampered by the use of so few characters. With Green Lantern, Flash, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman optioned, no references or usage of these characters would be allowed.

The story begins as Lord Industries is excavating an Egyptian cavern in Tibet. Professor David Cambell (and assistant Andy Helfer) uncover a dark helmet which, unbeknownst to them, houses the spirit of the Lord of Chaos. Meanwhile, on "A world a lot like our own ... only different," we meet the Oreo-loving Martian Manhunter stopping a crime and a pushy Booster Gold at Max Lord's museum-wing opening where the aforementioned helmet is about to be stolen. Despite Booster and scientist Ted Kord's "help," the helmet is spirited away. When the newly revived Lord of Chaos kidnaps Cambell and begins creating worldwide havoc, Maxwell Lord uses his friendship with the president to put together a force of vigilantes to protect the U.S.

He recruits the Martian Manhunter and Booster Gold, the actress/models Fire and Ice, Ted Kord's new identity of the Blue Beetle, and the altruistic-to-a-fault super-escape-artist Mr. Miracle and his pal Oberon (over objections from Miracle's wife, Barda). The newly christened Justice League of America soon faces their first trial... interviewing Mrs. Cambell.

Then, at a stop to gas up Blue Beetle's bug, the JLA gets in a fight with the Chaos-maddened Chicago Cubs. Despite Booster's affirmation that they "don't need their powers. It's the Cubs. These guys haven't won in 1100 years," the JLA gets fouled out and lets the Cubs escape.

Next, the League is off to the United Nations, where a terrorist has a bomb strapped to his chest. Fire, Ice, and Mr. Miracle enter the U.N. building while Beetle coordinates from the Bug, Booster protects the crowd outside with his force field, and Manhunter enters from the roof. Once most of the terrorists have been neutralized, Manhunter uses his shapechanging abilities to get Booster Gold close enough to stop the bomb-wearing madman. Police chief Stanley Marvel (wink wink, nudge nudge) begrudgingly thanks the team for their semi-efficient rescue, but the thanks is only short-lived as the Lord of Order reveals himself and escapes.

In Beetle's bug, the JLA searches for Chaos's hideout, where he's stashed the great minds and leaders of the world. They find the hideout in Arizona, but only as all of the nuclear missiles in the world are fired, aimed at each country's enemies, and more than a few allies. As Blue Beetle works on a way to upload a missile deflection system to broadcast from the Earth's communication satellites, the rest of the team forces their way into Chaos's mountain stronghold.

While Booster and Manhunter search for Dr. Cambell, Fire and Ice engage guards and Mr. Miracle defies deadly death traps to find the Chaos helmet ... only to find it's a fake. Eventually, all our heroes face off against Chaos and defeat him, but he has the last laugh; though Beetle's deflected most of the missiles, Chaos transports the JLA into the middle of Times Square, the target for the sole surviving nuclear missile.

There in the midst of New York, the League has a desperate battle with Chaos, finally defeating him once and for all. And although the New Yorkers don't much appreciate the team, the rest of the world does. The JLA is on its way.

Maybe I'm wearying of the comic antics of my once second-favorite super-team, but the Justice League is growing tired. The film keeps the same kind of attitude toward its heroes as the comic (some dialogue seems to have been lifted directly from the comics' pages), a kind of hipper-than-thou slapstick which is less funny than overused. While viewers of the film might find it refreshing and new, readers of the comic will find it's same-old same-old.

Fire and Ice are a little less like Lucy and Ethel, while the Martian Manhunter is somewhat less dispassionate-though just as Oreo-loving. Mr. Miracle is portrayed as a naive goof who is as trusting and philanthropic as an old lady. Barda's revelation of her pregnancy halfway through the script is barely referred to again, although Oberon is as obnoxious as ever. Ditto Maxwell Lord, whose powers are hinted at late in the script.

Blue Beetle is relatively unchanged, and actually has some of the best lines ( especially one where he finds a surprise stress-test for his body armor), but his relationship with Booster Gold is ruined. You see, in this script, Booster Gold is spelled G-u-y G-a-r-d-n-e-r. Booster, a mildly obnoxious and scheming character in the current JLA, here becomes a groping, bragging, swaggering jerk whose recklessness and attitude are more a hindrance to the team than a help. Apparently, without the use of the real Guy Gardner, the scripters felt they had to have one supremely obnoxious putz in the group, and Booster was available.

Despite my criticisms, the Justice League of America script in this form would be a tremendous hit in this age of Married with Children, Roseanne, Cheers, and similar sitcoms. It's sarcastic enough, the characters are neanderthal enough, the women are pretty enough, and the script fairly screams for a laugh track. A dark JLA a la Flash, Superboy, or Batman woμldn't work at all, so the writers have taken the correct measures to find their hit.

Late-breaking news finds a DC source relating that the show may not be as dead as previously thought. In today's Hollywood, comics are again being perceived as a hot item, and DC's characters being on the forefront of that list. Now it's up to the Blue and Gold guys to fight it out with the Justice League guys to see who gets which rights first.

If you're especially immersed in Justice League lore, you may know that the Justice League did finally in 1997 get a made-for-television movie. It was loosely based on the late-era International League, with featured roles for "B.B. DaCosta" Fire and "Tori Olafsdotter" Ice. It was incredibly bad with worse special effects, and Booster Gold thankfully played no part.

Thirty-two years later, Booster still hasn't appeared in a live-action movie. Hopefully when he does, he'll be recognizable as the Corporate Crusader we all know and love.

Comments (2) | Add a Comment | Tags: amazing heroes andy mangles justice league international movies

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