When Andy Warhol Made a Batman Superhero Movie (1964)

Each of us has a favorite Batman movie. My own allegiance still lies with the one Tim Burton directed in 1989, a prototype of the modern dark superhero blockbuster in which Jack Nicholson made quite an impact as the Joker. But Heath Ledger made an even bigger one in The Dark Knight, an especially beloved entry in Christopher Nolan's acclaimed Batman pictures of the 21st century. These days, with enough distance, some even admit to enjoying Joel Schumacher's ultra-campy takes on Batman from the late 1990s, or their spiritual predecessor Batman: The Movie from 1966, an extension of the self-parodying television series starring Adam West. But before all of them there was Batman Dracula, directed by no less a visionary — and no less a Batman fan — than Andy Warhol.

Starring Warhol's fellow experimental filmmaker Jack Smith in both title roles, Batman Dracula pits the Caped Crusader of comic-book fame against the vampiric Transylvanian count of legend, the millionaire vigilante who seems to fear nothing but bats against the immortal recluse who spends much of his time in the form of a bat.

Smith may bear a faint resemblance to Christian Bale, Nolan's Batman, but there all aesthetic resemblance to the "real" Batman movies ends. Shot in black and white on various rooftops around New York and Long Island as well as in Warhol's "Factory," Warhol's unauthorized approach to the material seems to get as abstract and spontaneous as most of the cinema put together by his coterie — or at least the surviving footage makes it look that way. Though Warhol did complete Batman Dracula, he only showed it at a few of his art shows before DC Comics called and demanded an immediate end to its screenings.

Nobody has found a complete print since, but you can watch a few minutes of the surviving footage cut to "The Nothing Song" by the Velvet Underground & Nico (a much more enduring product of the Factory) in the video at the top of the post. Below that we have the LowRes Wünderbred video essay "Deconstructing Andy Warhol's Batman Dracula," which provides more details on the making of Batman Dracula and its context in the careers of Warhol and his collaborators. The Film Histories video on Batman Dracula just above gets into how the movie opened up a "Pandora's box" of unauthorized Batman and Batman-like movies, including The Wild World of Batwoman and the Filipino Alyas Batman at Robin. So many Batman projects, official and otherwise, now exist, and so many more remain to be made. But will any of the material's future stewards push its artistic boundaries as much as Warhol did?

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Hunter S. Thompson Hated Getting Caricatured as “Uncle Duke” in Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury: ‘If I Ever Catch That Little Bastard, I’ll Tear His Lungs Out’

Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury is hardly the cultural touchstone it once was, but then again, neither are comic strips in general, and political strips in particular. No amount of urbane witticism and sequential narrative humor can compete with the crazed jumble of arcane memes in the 21st century. Hunter S. Thompson may have written about the late-20th century political scene as a hallucinatory nightmare, but perhaps even he would be surprised at how close reality has come to his hyperbole.

In its heyday, Trudeau’s topical, liberal-leaning satire of politicians, political journalists, clueless hippies, and cynical corporate and academic elites hit the target more often than it missed. For many fans, one of Trudeau’s most beloved characters, Uncle Duke—a caricature of Thompson introduced in 1974—was a perfect bullseye. Writer Walter Isaacson paid tongue-in-cheek tribute to the character as his “hero” on the strip’s 40th anniversary. Duke even made an animated appearance on Larry King Live in 2000 (below), announcing his candidacy for president after serving as Governor of American Samoa and Ambassador to China.

It would be a tremendous understatement to say that Thompson himself was not flattered by the portrayal. The amoral Duke—a “self-obsessed, utterly unscrupulous epitome of evil who has sent a chill down readers’ spines,” writes The Guardian’s Ed Pilkington, sent Thompson into a paroxysm of rage. The gonzo writer saw the character “as a form of copyright infringement.” He “sent an envelope of used toilet paper to Trudeau and once memorably said: ‘If I ever catch that little bastard, I’ll tear his lungs out.’” The threats got even more specific and gruesome.

“Hunter despised Trudeau,” writes Thompson biographer William McKeen in his book Outlaw Journalist. “’He’s going to be surprised someday,’ Hunter said. ‘I’m going to set him on fire first, then crush every one of his ribs, one by one, starting from the bottom.’” He had been turned into a joke. Jan Wenner, “when he couldn’t get Hunter to write for him… put him on the cover of Rolling Stone anyway, as Uncle Duke in a Trudeau-drawn cover.” Thompson pondered a $20 million libel suit. “All over America,” he ranted, “kids grow up wanting to be firemen and cops, presidents and lawyers, but nobody wants to grow up to be a cartoon character.”

The mockery began immediately after Uncle Duke first appeared in the strip in 1974. In a High Times interview, Thompson describes the day he first learned of the character:

It was a hot, nearly blazing day in Washington, and I was coming down the steps of the Supreme Court looking for somebody, Carl Wagner or somebody like that. I’d been inside the press section, and then all of a sudden I saw a crowd of people and I heard them saying, “Uncle Duke,” I heard the words Duke, Uncle; it didn’t seem to make any sense. I looked around, and I recognized people who were total strangers pointing at me and laughing. I had no idea what the fuck they were talking about. I had gotten out of the habit of reading funnies when I started reading the Times. I had no idea what this outburst meant…It was a weird experience, and as it happened I was sort of by myself up there on the stairs, and I thought: “What in the fuck madness is going on? Why am I being mocked by a gang of strangers and friends on the steps of the Supreme Court? Then I must have asked someone, and they told me that Uncle Duke had appeared in the Post that morning.

While Trudeau seems to have taken the physical threats seriously, he didn’t back down from his relentless satirical takedowns of Thompson’s violent tendencies, paranoia, and comically exaggerated substance abuse. As Dangerous Minds describes, in 1992, Trudeau published a book called Action Figure!: The Life and Times of Doonesbury’s Uncle Duke “that chronicled the misadventures of Uncle Duke.” It also “came with a five-inch action figure of the dear Uncle Duke along with a martini glass, an Uzi, cigarette holder, a bottle of booze, and a chainsaw.”

See the Uncle Duke action figure at the top—one of a half-dozen images Dangerous Minds pulled from eBay (his t-shirt reads “Death Before Unconsciousness.”) As much as Thompson despised Uncle Duke, and Trudeau for creating him, he himself helped feed the caricature—with his alter ego Raoul Duke and his chronicles of his own bizarre behavior. Trudeau’s admiration, of a sort, for Thompson’s excesses was a continuing driver of the writer's fame, for good or ill. “Uncle Duke was who fans craved,” writes Sharon Eberson at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “and Thompson often felt obliged” to live up to his cartoon image.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

“The Long Tomorrow”: Discover Mœbius’ Hard-Boiled Detective Comic That Inspired Blade Runner (1975)

Alejandro Jodorowsky may never have made his film adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune, but plenty came out of the attempt — including, one might well argue, Blade Runner. Making that still hugely influential adaptation of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Ridley Scott and his collaborators looked to a few key visual sources, one of them a two-part short story in comic form called "The Long Tomorrow."

Illustrated by none other than French artist Mœbius, one of the richest visual imaginations of our time, it tells the futuristic hard-boiled story of a private detective in a dense, vertical underground city filled with androids, rowdy bars, assassins, and flying cars. "I'm a confidential nose," says the protagonist by way of introduction. "My office is on the 97th level. Club's the name, Pete Club."

Then comes the fateful piece of narration that begins any detective story worth its salt: "It started out a day like any other day." But by the end of that day, Club has taken a job from a classic dame in need, fended off both a four-armed thug and a hired assassin, slain an alien monster with whom he finds himself in bed, and recovered the president's missing brain.

The story was written written by Dan O'Bannon, then known mainly for the film Dark Star, a science-fiction comedy he'd made with his University of Southern California classmate John Carpenter. On the strength of that, Jodorowsky had brought him onto Dune to work on its special effects, just as he'd brought Mœbius on to create its storyboards and concept art. With nothing to do before shooting began — which it never did — O'Bannon first drew "The Long Tomorrow" himself as a way of keeping busy. Mœbius took one look at it and immediately saw its promise.

The French may have coined the term film noir, but this early work of future noir benefited from having an American writer. "When Europeans try this kind of parody, it is never entirely satisfactory," Mœbius writes in the introduction to the book version of "The Long Tomorrow." "The French are too French, the Italians are too Italian … so, under my nose was a pastiche that was more original than the originals." It also, with Mœbius' art, laid the visual groundwork for generations of sci-fi stories to come.

"The way Neuromancer-the-novel 'looks' was influenced in large part by some of the artwork I saw in  Heavy Metal," said William Gibson, referring to the English version of Métal hurlant, the magazine that popularized Mœbius' work. (O'Bannon also worked on the animated Heavy Metal anthology film, released in 1981.) But perhaps Ridley Scott, who started working with the artist on 1979's O'Bannon-scripted Alien, described the influence of Mœbius' art on our visions of the future best: "You see it everywhere, it runs through so much you can’t get away from it." In a cultural sense, all of us live in Pete Club's city now.

via Dangerous Minds

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Discover David Lynch’s Bizarre & Minimalist Comic Strip, The Angriest Dog in the World (1983-1992)

Most David Lynch fans discover him through his films. But those of us who read alternative weekly newspapers in their 1980s and 90s heyday may well have first encountered his work in another medium entirely: the comic strip. Like many of the best-known examples of the form, Lynch's comic strip stars an animal, specifically a dog, but a dog "so angry he cannot move. He cannot eat. He cannot sleep. He can just barely growl. Bound so tightly with tension and anger, he approaches the state of rigor mortis." That text, which prepared readers for a reading experience some way from Marmaduke, introduced each and every edition of The Angriest Dog in the World, which ran between 1983 and 1992.

During that entire time, the strip's artwork never changed either: four panels in which the titular dog strains against a rope staked down in a suburban backyard, in the last of which night has fallen. The sole variation came in the word bubbles that occasionally emerged from the window of the house, presumably representing the voice of the dog's owners.

You can see a few examples at Lynchnet and also on this blog. "If everything is real... then nothing is real as well," it says one week. On another: "It must be clear to even the non-mathematician that the things in this world just don't add up to beans." Or, in a nod to the region of The Angriest Dog in the World's home paper the LA Reader: "Bill... who is this San Andreas? I can't believe it's all his fault."

"At some point David Lynch called up the editor at the time, James Vowell, and said, ‘Hi, I'd like to do a comic strip for you,’" says former Reader editor Richard Gehr as quoted by John F. Kelly at Spooky Comics. Every week thereafter, Lynch would phone the Reader to dictate the text of the latest strip. "We would give it to somebody in the production department and they would White Out the panels from the week before and write in a new, quote/unquote… gag.” The clip from The Incredibly Strange Film Show's 1990 episode on Lynch above shows the evolution of the process: someone, one of Lynch's assistants or perhaps Lynch himself, would regularly slip under the Reader's office door an envelope containing word balloons written and ready to paste into the strip. (Dangerous Minds finds an interview where Vowell describes another production method altogether, involving wax paper.)

Lynch came up with the words, but what about the images? "I assume he drew the first iteration," says Gehr as quoted by Kelly. "I don’t even know if the second and third [panels] were hand drawn. Those could have been mimeographed too or something." The style does bear a resemblance to that of the town map Lynch drew to pitch Twin Peaks to ABC. The attentive fan can also find a host of other connections between The Angriest Dog in the World and Lynch's other work. That factory in the background, for instance, looks like a place he'd photograph, or even a setting of Eraserhead, during whose frustrating years-long shoot he came up with the strip's concept in the first place. "I had tremendous anger," says Lynch in David Breskin's book Inner Views. "And I think when I began meditating, one of the first things that left was a great chunk of that." If only the Angriest Dog in the World could have found it in himself to do the same.

via Dangerous Minds

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Story of How David Jones Became David Bowie Gets Told in a New Graphic Novel

What, exactly, turned David Jones into David Bowie? Observers have been asking that question ever since the artistically inclined rock star — who, we might say, made rock stardom into a viable art form in the first place — began his high-profile experimentation with his own image in the early 1970s. Having put out his first big hit "Space Oddity" a few years before that, in 1969, he spent the period in between living, with his then-wife Angie, at a Victorian villa in South London called Haddon Hall. "The couple rented a ground-floor flat for £7 a week – the Spiders from Mars were, I think, sequestered around an upstairs landing – and in one of its cavernous rooms, their ceilings painted silver, Angie cut David’s hair and stitched the first Ziggy outfit."

Those words come from the Guardian's Rachel Cooke, reviewing the biographical graphic novel Haddon Hall: When David Invented Bowie. "Its author, the Tunisian-born French cartoonist Nejib, puts Bowie’s lost house centre stage, David and Angie having fallen instantly in love with its discreet decrepitude, its towers and mouldings and preposterously long corridors," she writes. "Nejib is wonderfully alive to the influences on Bowie in this crucial period, from the final illness of his father, John, to Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange (leaving the cinema after seeing it, the still struggling Bowie suddenly sees what he should be: a rock star 'who’s all destruction and the future')."

A Bowie scholar could argue that his and Angie's Haddon Hall years provided the space for the most crucial gestation period and space in his career. In an interview with the Herald, Nejib relates his dissatisfaction with extant Bowie biographies, and how one biographer even admits that writing a satisfying one may be "rather impossible because Bowie is a fiction created by David Jones, a very secret man. I loved that idea and I consider Bowie as one of the most powerful fictional creations of this period. That was very liberating for me to make this 'portrait' of Bowie in a graphic novel," which he describes as "not a documentary, but a fiction," based on more than just facts and as a result "a mix of many things."

More fascinated by "fragility and doubt than success and stardom," Nejib — whose art style brings to mind cartoons seen in magazines of the late 1960s and early 1970s — focuses on a "gap" in Bowie's life as its story has previously been told: "The man is close to becoming the genius we know, but he is full of doubt. I was inspired by an interview in which he said that he felt that all his influences were merging and he felt that it was the moment for him to make the big jump!" And make the big jump he did, not just once but over and over again throughout the course of his life, reinventing himself both musically and as a persona whenever necessary. Whatever importance any given Bowie fan grants his time in Haddon Hall, they've got to admit that those years make for a tale best told visually.

You can pick up your own copy of Nejib's graphic novel, Haddon Hall: When David Invented Bowie.

via Hyperallergic

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Watch the Original Black Panther Animated Series Online: All Six Episodes Now Available Thanks to Marvel

Last month, I was thrilled to learn of a talk coming to my town called “The Writers of Wakanda.” I scored a (free) ticket, thinking that maybe the massive blockbuster movie’s director/writer Ryan Coogler might make an appearance (or his co-writer Joe Robert Cole), or maybe one or more of the high-profile writers who have expanded the comic’s world recently, like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxanne Gay, or Nnedi Okorafor. Well, either there was some kind of bait-and-switch at work or I naively failed to read the fine print. The event was a panel of devoted fans of the comic having a discussion about their lifelong fandom, the many iterations of the character through various Marvel writer’s hands, and the film’s huge cultural impact at home and abroad. It was slightly disappointing but also quite enjoyable and informative.

I learned, for example, that some of the most well-loved and highly-praised characters in the film appeared very late in the series’ run (which began with the character’s creation by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966) and were introduced by its first black writers, the “chronically underappreciated” Christopher Priest and the filmmaker Reginald Hudlin.

In the late 90s, Priest invented the Dora Milaje, the elite all-female fighting force who protect Wakanda’s kings (who each take on the mantle of superhero Black Panther once they ascend the throne). Hudlin created the character of Shuri, King T’Challa’s younger sister and the scientific mastermind behind his high-tech empire of vibranium-powered gear and gadgetry. Which brings us, at last, to the subject of this post, the Black Panther animated series, co-produced by BET and Marvel, who have released all six episodes on Marvel's YouTube channel. Stream them all above.

Taking its story from Hudlin’s 2005 comics run, the series is less animation and more “a stop motion comic,” as Nerdist writes, “added to the artwork of John Romita, Jr.” This is all to its credit, as is its star-studded voice casting, with Kerry Washington as Shuri, Alfre Woodard as the Queen Mother, Jill Scott as Storm, and Djimon Hounsou as T’Challa/Black Panther. How does it compare to the blockbuster film? From its first salvo of Wakandan warrior prowess in a cold open set in the 5th century A.D., to its seventies-African-funk-inspired theme song, to a present-day scene in the White House, with a blustery racist army general (played by Stan Lee) who sounds like a member of the current administration, the first episode, above, suggests it will live up to Hudlin’s casting of the character as “an unapologetic African man,” as Todd Steven Burroughs writes at The Root, “openly opposed to white, Western supremacy.”

Hudlin wrote some of the comic’s most politically challenging stories, delving into “serious European colonization themes.” These themes are woven throughout the animated series, which features such characters now familiar to filmgoers as Everett Ross and the villain Klaw. Captain America parachutes in—in a flashback—meets an earlier Black Panther during World War II, and takes a beating. ("These are dangerous times," says Cap, "you need to choose a side." The reply: "We have, our own.") The X-Men’s Storm, formerly the first most-famous African superhero, plays a significant role. Not in the series, likely to many people’s disappointment, are the Dora Milaje, at least in starring roles, and the film’s primary antagonist Erik Killmonger.

But not to worry. The ass-kicking general Okoye and her cadre of warriors will soon get a spin-off comic written by Okorafor, and there’s been some speculation, at least, about whether Killmonger will return (resurrected, perhaps, as he was in the comics) in the inevitable Black Panther 2. In the meantime, both longtime and new fans of the character can get their fix in this six-episode series, which offers a thrilling, bloody, and historically fascinating take not only on the Black Panther himself, but on the complicated relationship of Wakanda to the machinations of the Western world throughout colonial history and into the present.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Where Are They Now? An Animated Mockumentary Reveals What Happened to Your Favorite 1980s Cartoon Characters After Their Heyday

It's a cautionary tale about what happens when the world you prepared yourself for changes and leaves you behind. Coldly, and sometimes without warning.

Above, watch Steve Cutts' 2014 animated mockumentary, "Where Are They Now?". Starring Roger and Jessica Rabbit, and featuring cameos by Garfield and The Smurfs, the short film revisits cartoon characters who had it all in the 1980s. Then hit the skids in the early 90s. Hard. "We had done our jobs," says an aged Jessica Rabbit. "Now we were forgotten about. Obsolete." It's a bleak picture that Cutts paints. But, it's not all bad. He-Man became a wealthy lingerie designer. We could all use a well-thought-out Plan B.

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