Horror Host Icon: Vampira

The art of Horror Hosting is something that has been going on for many decades and has showcased so many talents over the years from 1960’s The Great Zucchini of Supernatural Theatre to 2015’s Arachna of Beware Theater and so many amazing hosts in between. And like every form of entertainment there is a queen of the bunch, and in the case of horror hosting, every host pays respect to the glamour ghoul Vampira who is the first horror host in history and paved the way for them all! Imagine being a youth in 1954 and staying up past your bedtime as the glow of the TV screen filled the night air and you watched as a sexy dark haired woman glided down a hallway through the fog.  As she got close to the screen, she let out a loud blood curtailing scream that sent shivers down your spine and what followed was her hosting a classic Universal Monster movie like Frankenstein or The Mummy.  At that moment you became a fully fledged Monster Kid! That must have been something to witness as history was made and the Queen of Horror Hosting took the world by storm with her macabre appearance and pun filled one-liners. So with this update it is truly an honor to write about her as I bring you Horror Host Icon: Vampira.

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Vampira is a vampire ghoul who had straight jet-black hair, wore a long skintight black dress, had peaked eyebrows, long fingernails and had a tiny waist to boot and had a sexy voice and a scream that could shatter glass. Some people think she is a vampire but most know her as a ghoul who enjoys smoking cigarettes from her long holder as well as drinking a bubbling steamy drink all the while relaxing on her couch and seductively and playfully in a gothic manner introduced a cheesy horror film and entertain her viewers all the while also drawing them into not just the movie but also her exotic beauty. The thing about Vampira is her background is a mystery, and this aspect of her makes her even more interesting and draws those who want to know more about her in like a moth to a flame. Maila Nurmi, the actress who played Vampira, in a interview said that Vampira was a woman who pretends to act evil but really walks with Jesus…very strange that the character so much embraced by the goth and punk world is a fake evil doer. So is she a ghoul or is she a vampire? In the end it doesn’t really matter as Vampira is so amazing and groundbreaking she lives on until this day for horror host fans and beyond.

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Maila Elizabeth Syrjäniemi was born in Petsamo, Finland on December 11th 1922, and when she was two, her family moved to Ashtabula, Ohio where she stayed until 1939 before they moved to Oregon where she finished school and would set her sites on living in Los Angeles. While in L.A. she started modeling for Bernard Of Hollywood, Man Ray and Alberto Vargas and her beauty and charm helped land her a role in the 1947 film If Winter Comes. By 1944 she was cast in Catherine Was Great on Broadway, but was fired after star Mae West felt as if she was being upstaged by Maila who was gaining lots of attention from the viewers. But after being fired, she did not have a hard time finding work as she was cast in the creepy midnight show called Spook Scandals where she honed her skills of screaming and being seductive in a horror themed setting and later became a showgirl for the Earl Carroll Theatre as a chorus line dancer. In 1949, she married silent actor Dean Riesner who went on to write such films as Dirty Harry and Play Misty For Me. By the 1950’s she went back to being a model as she became a pin-up for such magazines as Glamorous Models and Gala, plus she worked as a hat-check girl on the Sunset Strip. Her life would change when in 1953 she went dressed as Morticia Addams to Lester Horton’s Masquerade and caught the eye of Hunt Stromberg Jr. a producer for KABC-TV who loved her gothic look and wanted to hire her to host horror films on the station as they had just bought a package of Universal Monster films called the Shock package.  Maila and her husband Dean talked about the idea.  He came up with the name Vampira, and she agreed to become the worlds first Horror Host! What’s really cool about this was Maila was really trying to get the station to do a live action version of the comic strip The Addams family, but they didn’t want to pay for the license to do so and with that Vampira the horror hostess was born. During her time on the air as Vampira, she became friends with actor James Dean and the tabloids had a field day of reporting on the rebel and his dark mistress friend. During this time she was so popular that she was even nominated for Emmy Award that sadly she did not win. Maila would get married two more times as each marriage would fail.  Her second husband was John Brinkley who she married in 1958, and her third and final husband was Fabrizio Mioni who she married in 1961. After The Vampira Show went off the air, Maila would take roles in many lower budget films like The Magic Sword, Plan 9 From Outer Space, I Passed For White and Sex Kittens Go To College showing that she was still in demand even after the show’s run. In 1962, she made her living working installing linoleum floors and refinishing furniture and would go on to open her own boutique called Vampira’s Attic that sold antiques as well as Maila’s homemade jewelry and clothing. While she was loved by many, she did also have her haters such as gossip columnist Hedda Hopper who claimed that Maila really didn’t know James Dean as well as she claimed and that she was a scam artist claiming that she could speak to Dean after his death.  Whether Maila could do this or not is up to debate as is how well she knew Dean…but those close to her all claim she and Dean were friends. But even with the haters, almost everyone who meet her loved Maila and her alter ego Vampira. One other crazy aspect of her life was on June 20th 1955, a man broke into her house and kept her captive for four hours terrorizing her with the main goal to kill her! By luck she was able to escape and call the police for help, really scary stuff and glad she was able to escape this loony tune.

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On April 30th 1954 at 11:00pm KABC-TV viewers got their first look at Vampira during a preview show they called Dig Me Later, Vampira in which they showcased their horror hostess and let the viewers get a peek at her stunning character. The next night May 1st 1954 The Vampira Show premiered at midnight, and the world was changed forever as the first horror host was born and Vampira screamed her way onto TV Screens all across the Los Angeles area. The show was very laid back and mostly had Vampira on her couch cutting cheesy twisted puns and enjoying cocktails and smoking, but while nothing too in your face, this was a new genre and captivated viewers who were not only drawn to watching the horror films but to just see her host them. Her theme song is very classic and eerie and sounds like it could be taken straight from a late night horror film that she could have easily shown on her show. Her set was nothing more than a couch with some tables that housed candles with the background being dimmed and black. Her late night ratings were high, and she became a superstar overnight.  For publicity, the station had Vampira ride around Hollywood, had her run for late night mayor, Life Magazine did a feature on her as well as booked her on many other sketch television shows, but none of this helped as in 1955 KABC-TV canceled the show.  Its rival station KHJ-TV picked up the show for a short time in 1956, but sadly it didn’t last. The reason Vampira was canceled from KABC-TV was that ABC wanted to own the rights to the character and Vampira was not having it so they did what any big company does, they pulled the plug on something that fans loved to watch all over the greed of money. The Vampira Show lasted for one season and had slightly over 50 episodes in its run.  While talks in 1981 were in place to bring her back to TV, this was not in the cards as she would be replaced and the show would be changed to another…but that subject will be a little later in our update. Sadly, no known episodes of The Vampira Show are around as it was aired live and the station did not backup any episodes.  The only known footage of her is taken from a promo reel she did for the station to try and get sponsors. While her show did not last long, her impact on horror hosting and horror culture is still felt to this day. I should also note that the sidekick for the show, was her pet spider she named Rolo.

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Edward D. Wood Jr. was a low budget filmmaker with a vision, and in 1956 with his small crew and the last shoot footage of horror legend Bela Lugosi, he decided to make a film that was called “Grave Robbers From Outer Space” that would later be changed to “Plan 9 From Outer Space”. Ed Wood wanted to hire Vampira for a role as one of the ghouls, and she at first refused to take part in the production and was insulted that Wood would even have the nerve to suggest she be in his production. But over time and with The Vampira Show being off the air, she took the role of a female ghoul. She claims the lines she was given were so bad she asked if she could play the part mute! The look of Female Ghoul is that of Vampira, and she looks just like her horror host self, and by doing this she marked herself even more so of becoming an icon of horror. But Plan 9 was not her only film role as she also played a hag in the 1962 sword and sandal film “The Magic Sword”, oddly enough they had her covered up with so much makeup it’s hard to tell it was her! Other titles she starred in include “The Big Operator” in 1959, “Sex Kittens Go To College” in 1960 and the short 1996 film “Dry” to name a few. She also has been in a number of documentaries talking about her horror host career or working with Ed Wood and these titles include “The Haunted World Of Edward D. Wood Jr.” in 1995, “American Scary” and “Vampira: The Movie” in 2006. While she might not have been a box office bombshell, she still made her mark on cinema for sure.

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In 1994, Tim Burton made a bio-pic on Ed Wood and casted actress Lisa Marie as Vampira, and I must say she was a perfect fit as her beauty did justice to Maila’s stunning good looks. I have heard that Lisa to prepare for the role spent some time with Maila and did as much research on her as possible in order to play her the right way. The film is my favorite Tim Burton movie next to Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, and if you have not seen it make sure to check it out to see not only Lisa Marie’s portrayal of Vampira but to see a fun film that captures the dream of so many no budget directors who believe in their art.

Lisa Marie as Vampira 1Lisa Marie as Vampira 2Lisa Marie as Vampira 3

Vampira was super important to the world of female horror hosting, and she has inspired many that would follow in her footsteps. I am sure if you asked the likes of Ms. Monster, Stella Desire, Marlena Midnite, Susie D. Rott and many other horror hostesses, they would say she inspired them in some way. But now we come to the point where we have to talk about the elephant in this update, and that’s the Vampira and Elvira situation! In 1981 KHJ-TV hired Vampira to come back to TV and recreate The Vampira Show.  Some say that she would have come back on air, while others claim they just wanted the name to use with a new actress. But what is known is talks stalled and Vampira quit after the station wanted to own the name, character and trademark! In 1982, a year later, Elvira Mistress of the Dark hosted a show called Movie Macabre, and the similarities between the two were astounding, and worse, the company that was slated to do the Vampira re-launch were the people behind Elvira! Vampira stated that there were 150 similarities between her and Elvira and a lawsuit was filed as Vampira took on Elvira in the courts.  People took sides and some fans didn’t seem to pay it any attention as both hostess, while similar, added entertainment late nights, plus Vampira sadly had not been on TV for decades at that point. Vampira even took to the late night TV show Arsenio Hall to talk about the case as well as deliver her trademark scream. Vampira was very angry at Elvira and took pot shots at her whenever she could, while Elvira was more hushed about it and claimed she wished the two could just get along as the plan was to have Vampira cameo on Movie Macabre. The case was later dismissed and the two made some tiny amends as Vampira stopped trashing Elvira and took her words toward the company who made the show. I for one would love to have seen Vampira return to TV, but also I can’t down play the impact and popularity of Elvira who almost all boys of the 80’s had a crush on. I really couldn’t imagine TV without Elvira, but I am also sad Vampira didn’t get one last ride to chill the blood of late night viewers while hosting cheesy horror films. Was Elvira inspired by Vampira? Absolutely. Did she rip her off? …not sure…but what I do know is that the world of horror hosting is better off with both Vampira and Elvira.

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Let’s move away from a dismissed lawsuit and onto some more pleasant things. One thing about Vampira is that many decades after her show ended and the mass amount of her footage were lost or taped over, this queen of gothic beauty has became an icon for many people who are into not only horror hosting but also punk rock, goth life and she had lots of great merchandise for her fans. Things like posters, t-shirts, models, soundtracks to films she’s in and even purses, jewelry and custom figures and dolls! Growing up, my brother Bryan had a poster of Vampira from Plan 9 From Outer Space in his room, and we both have had t-shirts with her image on it over the years. Working many horror conventions for Independent B Movie, Nightcrew Video, Andy Copp and Baron Von Porkchop over the years I have seen so many Vampira items like magnets, mirrors and costumes at vender tables and have seen many horror fans wearing her image. Still to this date 2016, if you are a Vampira fan, you can find something new to add to your collection. My favorite piece of merchandise I own of Vampira is a t-shirt that I will share it’s image below.

Vampira T-ShirtVampira The Movie CD SoundtrackVampira Model

One strange thing that I must point out is that Vampira, while appearing in comics based on Plan 9 From Outer Space, has never had a comic book one shot or series based around her and that’s very odd to me as she is so recognizable and is a icon of horror that it seems like a no brainer that she should have her own comic, I mean Elvira Mistress of The Dark as well as several other horror hosts have had comics made about them.  From Wolfman Mac to Sammy Terry, they have all made a leap from TV to comic pages! I would have loved to have read a comic based on Vampira when I was a teen and could even still imagine the twisted adventures she could have had along with her pet spider Rolo.  The comic series could have taken the Tales From The Crypt route and had her host horror stories or even better could have followed her life in Hollywood and had her mix it up with monsters and ghouls and gave a true look at this vampire of sexy fright. In 2014, I noticed a Vampira comic book cover that was on Google and I looked high and low for information on it.  Sadly, it turned out to be just an art print for the film “Vampira The Movie” and poof – my hope of covering a Vampira comic went up in smoke like the fog on her set. Do any of your readers out there know of a comic based on Vampira? I am sure if one was made it has to be a underground one, but here is hoping that some day soon Vampira will have her own comic book adventures. Below is some fan artwork that shows how cool she could look in a comic.

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On January 10th 2008 Maila “Vampira” Nurmi passed away in her Hollywood home from natural causes at the age of 85.  This was a true sad day for horror hosts and fans around the world as the original queen of scream was no longer with us. The world on that day lost someone special: an actress, an artist, an shop owner, a painter, a horror hostess, a kind spirit, a person and so much more.  She was laid to rest in Hollywood Forever Cemetery in the Griffith Lawn section. I can remember getting the news from my brother Bryan and friend Andy Copp about her passing, and all of us were really bummed out.  I know many of the horror hosts were saddened to hear of her passing as she was a inspiration to so many. In closing I must say while I never knew her personally I want to say thank you, Vampira, for being the first horror hostess and bringing so many wonderful chills to your fans, and may your spirit rest knowing that you were loved by many. Rest in peace, Vampira…

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On March 26-28th 2010 at HorrorHound Weekend in Indianapolis, Indiana, the world’s largest gathering of horror hosts took place all to pay respects to Vampira as they held a tribute in her honor. Many great hosts came to the event to pay respects to the Glamour Ghoul, The Queen, the First Ever Horror host Vampira.  Names like Joe Bob Briggs, A. Ghastlee Ghoul, Count Gore De Vol and many more came up and talked about the legacy she has paved for horror hosts of the past and present. A truly special event that ranks up there with her being inducted into the first class in the Horror Host Hall Of Fame. Sadly I missed the event as I was stuck at work.  This tribute also gave many something to worry about as Dr. Creep fell ill while at the event and was not able to participate in the tribute due to the fact he was in the hospital. But I wish Vampaira was with us and could have seen all these hosts coming together to pay respects to all she has done for this art.

Vampira HorrorHound Tribute

For most of the horror hosts of the 50’s and 60’s, episodes were broadcast lived or the tapes used were wiped and reused for other shows to save money, and this of course is the same thing that happened to The Vampira Show. But unlike many others, a reel was found of Vampira doing a few of her bits on her set and this was cut together with the film The 13th Guest and added was old commercials directed by Ed Wood Jr and out came an official reproduction of her show! So I am proud to say that I have a copy of this show and would like to share it with you all. Here is hoping that some day in the future that more footage of Vampira will come to light as well as other classic horror hosts so fans can watch again or for the first time. So with no more wait, here is a look at Vampaira “hosting” 13th Guest.

The Vampira Show - 13th Guest DVD

The Vampira Show:  The 13th Guest
Starring – Dick Purcell & Helen Parrish     Not Rated   1943

Host: Vampira glides down her foggy hallway and lets out a shriek and opens the show by drinking a vampire cocktail and delivering a few puns and smocking a cigarette. And by the end she wishes us all unpleasant dreams!

Movie: The Morgan family’s patriarch is soon to die. He hosts a dinner party for the family to tell them all he’s setting aside his last will to be opened by his nearly 8-year-old granddaughter thirteen years in the future when she turns twenty-one. Thirteen years later, she returns to the abandoned family house to open the will, per his instructions. Murder follows shortly thereafter. Police Lt. Burke and Private Investigator Johnny Smith are soon on hand to investigate when guests of the old dinner party thirteen years earlier seem to be bumped off according to the past seating arrangement.

Vampira and The Misfits

This was such a fun update to research and re-live Vampira’s influences on my own life.  It’s a shame that she has passed away and that her 1981 comeback never happened as it would have been nice to have footage and episodes of the character for young horror host fans to watch, collect and be inspired by. Could you imagine if she was still with us when Horrorhound Weekend did the tribute to her? Just imagine her coming to the event and being honored and worshiped by her huge fan base as well as all the horror hosts who were influenced by her would have gotten a chance to chat with her. For our next update, I am handing Rotten Ink back over to Juliet and she is going to cover something that is near and dear to her heart and that’s Star Trek: The Next Generation and DC Comics first run based on that epic TV show! So until then make sure to have unpleasant dreams and support your local horror host! See you next update for a true fun space adventure with Juliet and Captain Picard.

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DC At The Movies: Batman (The Christmas Eve Special)

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas Eve.  While this has been a year filled with lots of ups and downs for me, I have also had a great time loving life and am happy for all my friends and family in my life who have helped make me the person that I am today! While last year we covered Thundercats, this year we are going to cover something a little different as we will be looking at the movie series Batman that started with the Tim Burton directed film in 1989.  When that movie came to theaters on June 23rd the following Christmas every male kid I knew wanted Batman stuff for presents, and boy was their a lot to choose from! On this update we are going to cover the DC Comic Movie Adaptations of the Batman films so let’s sit back with some eggnog and wait for Santa to come down the chimney and talk DC At The Movies: Batman!

Batman 1989 Symbol

When I was a kid, the most popular superhero films were the Superman films starring Christopher Reeves as Superman/Clark Kent.  The only other DC heroes I could think of that had their own movies were Swamp Thing in 1982 and Batman had a film based off the 60’s TV show in 1966.  They did also have some great TV shows like previously mentioned Batman as well as Shazam, Wonder Woman, Legend of Isis and of course Adventures of Superman. Marvel at the time was mostly just focusing on TV with shows and made for TV Movies based on Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, Captain America and Doctor Strange and did have the bomb Howard The Duck in 1986 a cheesy film directed by George Lucas, but I must say as a kid I really liked the film Howard the Duck.  I guess very loosely you could say that the Conan films as well as Red Sonja were a sliver connected to Marvel who made comics based on those characters at the time. But when 1989 came around, and Tim Burton, director of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, made Batman, the youth at the time exploded and Batmania was born! You couldn’t turn on the TV without hearing something about this film, and most kids at school had Batman t-shirts, folders, backpacks and toys. If your grew up when the 1989 film and its sequels came out, then you know what I am talking about when I say Batman ruled the world for those months leading up to the releases and the months that followed. So before we get too much into the insane popularity and merchandise of Batman I should give you a crash course on the films, and of course I will be getting the help of IMDB for these write ups as I would be far too long winded to tell you the readers the plots. So let’s set the bat signal off and see what these films were all about! Oh I will also put on here who played Batman as well as who played the main villain in each of these films.

Batman (Keaton)Batman 1989 PosterThe Joker (Jack)

BATMAN (1989)

Gotham City: dark, dangerous, ‘protected’ only by a mostly corrupt police department. Despite the best efforts of D.A. Harvey Dent and police commissioner Jim Gordon, the city becomes increasingly unsafe…until a Dark Knight arises. We all know criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot…so his disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. He becomes a bat. Enter Vicky Vale, a prize-winning photo journalist who wants to uncover the secret of the mysterious “bat-man”. And enter Jack Napier, one-time enforcer for Boss Grissom, horribly disfigured after a firefight in a chemical factory…who, devoid of the last vestiges of sanity, seizes control of Gotham’s underworld as the psychotic, unpredictable Clown Prince of Crime…the Joker. Gotham’s only hope, it seems, lies in this dark, brooding vigilante. And just how does billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne fit into all of this?

Batman – Michael Keaton

Joker – Jack Nicholson

Bob The Goon – Tracey Walter

Batman (Keaton 2)Batman Returns PosterThe Penguin (Danny)Catwoman (Michelle)

Batman Returns (1992)

Having defeated the Joker, Batman now faces the Penguin – a warped and deformed individual who is intent on being accepted into Gotham society. Crooked businessman Max Schreck is coerced into helping him become Mayor of Gotham and they both attempt to expose Batman in a different light. Earlier however, Selina Kyle, Max’s secretary, is thrown from the top of a building and is transformed into Catwoman – a mysterious figure who has the same personality disorder as Batman. Batman must attempt to clear his name, all the time deciding just what must be done with the Catwoman.

Batman – Michael Keaton

Penguin – Danny DeVito

Catwoman – Michelle Pfeiffer

Batman and Robin (Val & Chris)Batman Forever PosterThe Riddler (Jim)Two Face (Jones)

Batman Forever (1995)

The Dark Knight of Gotham City confronts a dastardly duo: Two-Face and the Riddler. Formerly District Attorney Harvey Dent, Two-Face incorrectly believes Batman caused the courtroom accident which left him disfigured on one side; he has unleashed a reign of terror on the good people of Gotham. Edward Nygma, computer-genius and former employee of millionaire Bruce Wayne, is out to get the philanthropist; as The Riddler he perfects a device for draining information from all the brains in Gotham, including Bruce Wayne’s knowledge of his other identity. Batman/Wayne is/are the love focus of Dr. Chase Meridan. Former circus acrobat Dick Grayson, his family killed by Two-Face, becomes Wayne’s ward and Batman’s new partner Robin the Boy Wonder.

Batman – Val Kilmer

Robin – Chris O’ Donnell

The Riddler – Jim Carrey

Two Face – Tommy Lee Jones

Batman Robin Batgirl (movie cast)Batman & Robin PosterFreeze Ivy Bane (movie cast)

Batman & Robin (1997)

Batman and Robin are back working side-by-side to stop the villains of Gotham City, but is there tension appearing between them, especially when one villainess who calls herself Poison Ivy can make anyone fall in love with her…literally. Along with Poison Ivy, the icy Mr. Freeze is freezing anything which gets in his way from achieving his goal.

Batman – George Clooney

Robin – Chris O’ Donnell

Batgirl – Alicia Silverstone

Mr. Freeze – Arnold Schwarzenegger

Poison Ivy – Uma Thurman

Bane – Jeep Swenson

The first two films were directed by Tim Burton and have a brooding dark feel to them while the latter two were directed by Joel Schumacher and take a more neon and goofy approach. Say what you will about any of them, you cannot deny the impact they had on the youth at the time as well as the box office. If you look at 1989, Batman was the # 1 film of the year bringing in $251,188,924.00 beating out the likes of Lethal Weapon 2, Back To The Future Part II, Ghostbusters II, The Little Mermaid, Honey I Shrunk The Kids, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Born on the Fourth of July, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Karate Kid Part III, 007: License To Kill, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, Halloween 5, All Dogs Go To Heaven, No Holds Barred, Cyborg, Kickboxer, Police Academy 6: City Under Siege, The Burbs, Major League, Tango & Cash as well as Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade! So as you can see it had very stiff competition and ended up beating them all. Batman Returns took the # 3 spot in 1992 beating out Wayne’s World, Lethal Weapon 3, Hellraiser III, A Few Good Men and Alien 3 to name a few! While in 1995, Batman Forever took # 2 and beat out such films as Pocahontas, 007: Goldeneye, Seven, Braveheart, Halloween 6: The Curse Of Michael Myers and Billy Madison. Batman & Robin took # 12 in 1997 and beat Scream 2, Austin Powers, Cop Land, Jackie Brown, Wishmaster, An American Werewolf in Paris, Lost Highway, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation and Alien Resurrection. But one thing I want to point out, is does anyone else notice that in every Batman movie in this series Bruce Wayne has a new love interest and almost always shows them that he is Batman! I think if I was Bruce Wayne, and while all the ladies are very lovely, I would try to stay with Chase Meridian played by Nicole Kidman as she is smart and very good looking! But no mater how you slice it, Wayne knows how to pick the ladies!

Kim BasingerBatmans RŸckkehrNicole Kidmanelle macpherson

The first batch of action figures based on the Batman movie was made by Toy Biz and showcased not only Batman but also The Joker and Bob The Goon. While many kids like myself rushed to get these figures to have our own Batman Movie style adventures, the figures themselves looked terrible and nothing like the actors from the film. I can remember many kids bringing these figures to the playground, and while we were happy to have them, we still all knew that the figures just looked cheap and were shells of what they should be. I had Batman and The Joker and skipped Bob The Goon, The Joker’s action was a squirting flower that acted like a squirt gun while Batman’s was his belt could be used as a hook. While Toy Biz tried, they really did fail, and the license was quickly taken away and given to Kenner.

Toy Biz Batman ToyToy Biz The Joker ToyToy Biz Bob The Goon Toy

When toy company Kenner got the license to make Batman movie toys, they went for the kill and made figures that looked like the actors as well as accessories like the Batmobile, The Batcopter and the Batcave. They also stayed with the film series and made figures for Batman Returns, Forever and Robin! Each series focused on many different versions of Batman and did all the core bad guys from the movie. On some of the molds they reused ones from their old Super Powers line as The Penguin is the same figure just his suit is painted a different color. When Kenner put these out I had to get my hands on one of the Batman’s as well as Catwoman, and they quickly replaced the Toy Biz ones when it came to Toy Wars. One thing that always cracked me up is the Poison Ivy figure done for the Batman & Robin line looks nothing like Uma Thurman who would not give them permission to use her likeness and looks like a man in drag instead! Don’t believe me, just take a look below, as well as take a look at some more of the Kenner Batman figures!

Kenner Batman ToysKenner ivy & Freeze

Back in 1989 Taco Bell released collector cups featuring Batman, and these were something that I felt I had to have when I was a kid and begged my parents to take me to Taco Bell to get one! When I did get one I can remember drinking everything from Mountain Dew to Chocolate Milk out of it, and it lasted away! After so many washings, the image on the cup began to disappear and sadly the Batman cup was retired and sold in a garage sale. I also remember them doing the cups for Batman & Robin, and I also collected those and got the whole set. McDonald’s did cups for Batman Returns, but I never did get any of those.

Taco Bell Batman Cups

McDonald’s had some Happy Meal toys as well as other merchandise for Batman Returns when the film was released, and many kids I knew had the cars that came in the meal. I can remember having Batman but none of the others. My cousins Dino and Norman had them all and so did Nathan. During this time, they also had pen necklaces that had Batman, Catwoman, Batmobile and The Penguin as topper caps on a very cheap pen. McDonald’s took some heat for putting out these toys in their kids meals by parent groups who thought the film was too violent and should not be geared towards the youth.  Parents groups sure can be silly sometimes.

McDonalds Batman Returns Happy Meal BagMcdonalds Batman Returns ToysBatman Returns Neck Pens

Trading cards have been made for all the films, but none were as popular as those based on the 1989 film put out by Topps. I used to get packs of the cards at United Dairy Farmers as well as at Big Bear and would trade my extra cards and stickers to my neighbor Carmen Fields who was making a whole set. The cards were well done, and they did two sets based just on the first film! I used to love buying old wax packs of cards and chewing on the stale gum as I flipped through to see what cards I had gotten. Oh the good old days!  But while the cards were cool, the whole set doesn’t sell for much as on Ebay.  They go for about $14.00 for both 1 and 2.

Topps Batman CardsTopps Batman Cards 2Batman Returns Cards

Batman t-shirts was also all the rage when I was younger, and while I didn’t have any for the first film I did have some for Batman Returns and as of the last few years I do have a Mr. Freeze one from Batman & Robin thanks to my brother Bryan who found it at a thrift store. I can remember that when I got my Batman Returns shirt for school I felt really cool with my all over print shirt Batman design and wore that shirt for many years after, mostly for gym or to sleep in. Sadly the shirt got holes in it and went to the big washing machine in the sky. But I am sure many of you reading this remember just how important it was for you to have the right cool shirts or shoes to fit in, I however was always just me and would wear movie and band shirts way past there popularity like my old blue Alice Cooper shirt or even Flattop from Dick Tracy. But while my old Batman shirts are gone or way too small at this point, I still have great memories of wearing them and being me.

Batman Returns T Shirt 1Batman Returns T Shirt 2Joker T-Shirt

Do you remember when companies like Post and Quaker Oats made cereals based on all types of cartoons and movies like The Addams Family and Gremlins? Well of course Batman cereal had to be made and company Ralston was the one to deliver it to the masses. Every morning when I was a kid my Mom made sure we ate some breakfast, and while some times it would be eggs & toast or oatmeal, it was mostly cereal and Batman was one that we tried and kind of liked. I can remember the main reason I choose it from the shelves of Big Bear is because it came with a free bank shrink-wrapped to the box. While the original Batman cereal was pretty good, the Batman Returns one made as well by Ralston was not so much! I can also remember eating Batman cereal watching Saturday Morning Cartoons.  Man I really do hate that in October 2014 Saturday Morning Cartoons ended on all major stations, ending an era.

batman cerealBatman Returns cereal

What would a movie be without a video game tie in back in the 80’s and 90’s and of course Batman had a number of game come out based on the blockbuster flicks. First Batman: The Video Game for NES came out in 1990 by SunSoft, and this game was super popular with the Brassfield cousins as we would all try and beat it while at our Grandparents house or even at each others. This game was followed up by Batman: Return Of The Joker, a follow up to a movie game that has no ties to any Batman movies by SunSoft for the NES and Sega Genesis in 1991 and 1992. When Batman Returns was released, a video game was made for many home consoles like NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, Sega CD and even Sega Master System. Batman Forever, a very cheesy beat em up game, came out for Sega Genesis and SNES while Batman Forever The Arcade Game was made for Arcades, Playstation and Sega Saturn. Batman & Robin also got the video game treatment as a game was released for Playstation, and I can remember getting this game from Blockbuster Video and trying my hardest to beat it…I never did and I blame it on the poor controls. While they all have a charm in their own way Batman: The Video Game for NES remains the best video game based on this series.

Batman NesBatman Returns GenesisBatman Forever GenesisBatman & Robin PSX

When Batman and Batman Returns came out in theaters I did not get to see them as we had to wait for the VHS tapes for hit the library and local video rental store.  My Dad was not a fan of the 1989 film when he watched it and didn’t want to spend money on the second one. But I can remember me and my brother trying to get them to take us but it didn’t work. Well for my 15th birthday, my parents and brother took me to the Belmont Drive-In to watch Batman Forever and I can remember the night we went it was kind of rainy out but while I was not a fan of the movie it was fun watching the flick in the old family car with everyone. I can remember that they also made snack food for us to munch on. Sadly the old Drive-In went out of business thanks the those wonderful land hogs at Reynolds and Reynolds who bought them out and let the land sit empty for years till they built another soulless building in its spot. I saw Batman & Robin in the theater inside The Dayton Mall with my Brother and younger cousin Nick when our aunt asked us to babysit him and offered to pay for our tickets and snack food, how could you go wrong. After the movie we played on the arcade machines that were in front of the theater. In closing, I miss the Belmont Drive-In and wish it was still around today.

Belmont Drive In

Well my fellow Bat-Fans, we are at the point of looking at the comic adaptations and I for one can’t wait to relive many of them. You see in my youth I had read the comics based on Batman and Batman Returns and want to see if they hold up! And want to thank you for spending this Christmas Eve here at Rotten Ink. So before we Biff and Pow our way into action, I should remind you that I grade these on a standard 1-4 star rating and am looking at how well the comic keeps to the source material, its entertainment value, and its art and story. I want to also thank Mavericks and Lone Star Comics for having these in stock.  So put another log on the fire and get your self another glass of Eggnog we are going to be having a good Bat Time.

Batman 1989 1

Batman  # 1  ***
Released in 1989   Cover Price $2.50   DC Comics   #1 of 1

A family is robbed and left in an ally.  As the crooks make off with the loot, they get a visit from Batman who teaches them that he is the night! Crime Lord Carl Grissom is being targeted by Gotham Police Department but up to this point they have nothing on him as he has a rat in the department who fills him in and helps cover things up. Reporter Alexander Knox along with photographer Vicki Vale are on the case of who and what Batman is, as crime on the streets is lowering as criminals are in fear. Billionaire Bruce Wayne is in fact Batman, but no one besides his butler Alfred knows his secret. Grissom’s girlfriend Alicia is cheating on him with his right hand man Jack Napier who he sets up at a chemical plant that leads to Batman knocking him into a vat of chemicals, and his face is turned white and his hair green and Jack becomes The Joker! Bruce Wayne however finds himself falling in love with Vicki Vale.  As they go on a date The Joker shoots and kills Grissom and now is in charge of his operation. Vicki is following Bruce Wayne and while out The Joker attacks and his men fire guns into crowd.  When the attack is over, they interview Vicki on TV and The Joker likes what he sees. Weird deaths are happening all over Gotham as people are dying of laughter and it’s shown that The Joker is using chemicals in every day products to spread his death. The citizens found out thanks to Batman who saves Vicki Vale from a Joker attacks at a restaurant and gives her the secret.  The next day Bruce Wayne on his date with Vicki is about to tell her that he is Batman when The Joker once more attacks and with this attack Bruce Wayne figures out that Jack Napier (now The Joker) is the thug who shoot and killed his parents! The Joker throws a parade in downtown Gotham and not only giving out free “money” but also poisoning people via balloons. Batman spoils his fun as The Joker takes Vicki prisoner on top of a bell tower.  Batman comes to her aid, and the fight leaves The Joker falling to his death as Batman becomes the savior of Vicki and Gotham.

This is 100% a comic movie adaptation done right, as the look and vibe of the comic captures the magic of the film. The story of this comic is Batman is new to Gotham, and the cops nor the civilians know what to think of him as he takes down crooks with his vigilante justice, and during one of his crime stopping nights he takes a crazy crook and by accident turns him into an even more crazy crook, The Joker, who is tormenting the city! Throw in the fact that Batman is Bruce Wayne, a rich respected man who is torn between doing what he thinks is right and love as he falls for a beautiful photographer who has also captured the eye of the crazed Joker! Batman comes off as a focused hero to the helpless who takes his crime fighting very serious, while Bruce Wayne is an odd rich man who is complex and is torn between fighting and love. Vicki Vale is a likable female lead who has just the right amount of damsel in distress to make you as the reader want to see her get saved. The Joker is crazy and seems like his whole goal in the issue is to cause chaos and to murder the helpless, very great bad guy character and changed just enough from the normal comic series that was also going at the time of this comic adaptation’s release. The Joker’s death is impactful as he falls from high above and dies still with a laugh as a laugh box in his pocket goes off after the impact. The cover is very eye catching, and fans of the movie would for sure nab this one up.  The art inside done by Jerry Ordway is fantastic, and all the characters look like the actors that played them in the movie. I can remember that I read this comic when it first came out as our friend Mike Cessna had it, and I loved it back then, but then again I did have Batman fever! In closing if you like the 1989 film and like comics then check this one out as it was made for you.

Batman 89 Art 1Batman 89 Art 2Batman 89 Art 3

So The Joker is dead, and Batman is now a full savior of the city.  So what baddies awaits him in this second comic movie adaption?  Let’s read on and find out!

Batman Returns 1

Batman Returns  # 1  ***
Released in 1992   Cover Price $3.95   DC Comics   #1 of 1

It’s in the past as a family drops a baby in a basket off the side of the bridge, and as the basket floats down the river and into the sewer, a family of penguins are there to rescue it. Max Shreck is a very powerful businessman in Gotham and is a man with a vision of a more powerful city.  He has the Mayor in his back pocket and he even runs his poor assistant Selina Kyle day and night. While giving a speech about Christmas, Max and company are attacked by a band of scary circus performers know as The Red Triangle Gang.  As Batman comes to save the day, Max himself comes face to face with a strange deformed man called The Penguin who lives in the sewer and knows all Max’s dirty little secrets.  So the two team up to allow Penguin to come above ground and be loved by the people of Gotham. Max has an idea to have a power planet that does not give off energy but takes energy to store, and when Selina gets too close in looking into the plant, she is shoved out a window by Max and is saved by cats who she now has a bond with.  This also makes her an anti hero as she dons a leather cat suit and calls herself Catwoman. Bruce Wayne and Max have a meeting over the power planet but don’t see eye to eye, as Selina shows back up to work to Max’s surprise as he thought she was dead. This bad meeting makes Max turn to Penguin who he now wants to make Mayor, and they hatch a plan of mayhem as they set the Red Triangle Gang free on the city.  As Batman takes out the trash he comes to find that Penguin is not a good role model as Max wants them all to believe and also meets Catwoman who is targeting business owned by Max. Catwoman and Penguin team up to frame Batman and to get the people of Gotham to turn against him by killing The Ice Princess and making it appear as if he did it.  While he is trying to save her ,they will turn the Batmobile into an out of control death machine! With the Ice Princess dead and Batman able to get back control of his car after a nasty joy ride, he is able to use messages he tapped of Penguin to have the people of Gotham turn on him and as he goes back to the sewers he tells his gang the plan of stealing all the first born children of the city and how he wants them all to die in a watery grave! Also by this point Catwoman and Penguin have turned on each other and to make things worse Bruce Wayne has to go to a costume party put on by Max, and that’s when Selina and Bruce find out each others secret identities. Penguin crashes the party and kidnaps Max who he has now turned on, as Bruce turns into Batman and stops the kids from being killed.  With one plan stopped, Penguin now sends his animal penguin brothers above ground complete with bombs and rockets strapped to them to cause death and destruction! Batman stops this attack as well and knocks Penguin out a window and he falls into the sewer bellow. Meanwhile Catwoman kills Max and herself as Batman is powerless to stop her and looses his love.  As Penguin once more appears and is at death’s door complaining of the heat and dies in the sewer water as his animal friends take his body away. Bruce Wayne won’t forget Selina Kyle as Catwoman’s shadow is seen in a ally.

Good comic adaptation follow up to the original but slightly looses the magic of the film, as many plot moments seemed a little rushed. Bruce Wayne/Batman in this comic are almost one and the same as he allows emotions to interfere with his personal life as well as his crime fighting mission. I also am puzzled as too how quickly Vicki Vale is thrown to the side and in a matter of seconds, he is head over heels in love with Selina Kyle who he briefly meets as Bruce during a meeting at Max’s and once for seconds as Batman during the first Red Triangle Gang attack. Bruce is really like a love struck teenager who is longing to be loved and chooses the most complicated women to fall for. Max Shreck is your typical rich big business man who acts as if he cares about the people, when really he cares about his own personal gain. Max is a total scumbag who kills and manipulates whoever he can to become more powerful in Gotham. Penguin is also a very violent and conniving man who kills and takes advantage of whoever can get him ahead in his plan to take over the city. The fact that he runs a gang of circus rejects and has a plan to kill children shows you just how gross of a person he is. Penguin’s death is a little to close too The Jokers with it coming via a fall, but it still works as he makes one last attempt to kill Batman grabs the wrong umbrella, and then falls just short of making it into the cold water before he dies. Penguin is nothing like the comic version and is not classy in any way and is more of a freak, but he still does use umbrellas of all types to fight with. Catwoman/Selina Kyle is an interesting character as she is not good nor bad and while she loves Bruce Wayne, she dislikes Batman and does take the life of his boss Max in the end. This really is a cool adaptation and is a nice follow up to the first with an equally cool cover, but I will say the artwork by Steve Erwin, while good, does lack the charm of making the characters look like the actors of them film, while some do, many don’t. I can remember buying this comic as a kid from The Bookie Parlor and thinking how cool I was cause I had it.  Also while reading this comic, I listened to the score for the film done by Danny Elfman. If you like the film and liked the original film adaptation, this is a good one to have in your collection!

Batman Returns Art 1Batman Returns Art 2Batman Returns Art 3

Penguin is dead and Catwoman is missing, who will be the next to step up and get beat down by Batman? Well let’s see in this next issue based on my least favorite Batman film of all time or should I say forever?

Batman Forever 1

Batman Forever  # 1  ***
Released in 1995   Cover Price $3.95   DC Comics   #1 of 1

Two Face has escape Arkham Asylum and is robbing a bank and has a live hostage, as Batman approaches Commissioner Gordon.  Batman also meets Chase Meridian, a doctor in abnormal psychology.  He goes in to save the day, but while he does save the guard Two Face gets away. Edward Nygma works for Bruce Wayne and is a little crazy.  When Bruce shoots down his idea of a TV that broadcast into your brain he decides to kill the manager and seek revenge on Bruce whom he leaves a riddle for. Bruce takes the riddle to Chase, and after they crack it, they go to a charity circus event and when The Flying Graysons are on, Two Face enters complete with a bomb.  As son Dick Grayson gets the bomb to safety, his parents are murdered by Two Face and Bruce can do nothing to save them. Dick stays at Wayne Manor as once more Two Face tries to kill Batman and fails.  While at his hideout he gets a visit from Nygma who is know calling himself The Riddler, and they two form a team to kill Batman that involves Nygma’s TV Mind Box! Dick sneaks and follows Alfred to the Bat Cave and takes the Batmobile for a drive and saves a woman from some street punks and gets a taste and wants to join Batman as a team who of course rejects the idea. At a party for Nygma’s new invention that is making his company out do Wayne Enterprises two to one, Two Face crashes and Batman this time around is hurt in the fight but is saved by Dick who is wearing his circus outfit and a tiny mask. Alfred tries to push a bruised up Bruce that he should train Dick and allow him to help in crime fighting.  As Bruce thinks it over he becomes Batman and meets Chase at her house as it’s clear she has feelings for Batman as well as Bruce Wayne, but she in the end chooses Wayne! The Riddler finds out thanks to his TV machine that Wayne is Batman, and the evil pair decide to make a statement. Bruce invites her over to tell her he is Batman, and Two Face and The Riddler come in and shoot Wayne, kidnap Chase and blow up the Batcave. After the attack, Batman along with his new sidekick Robin (Dick Grayson) head to Nygma’s factory and battle it out with the baddies. The end fight leaves The Riddler’s brain boiled by his own machine, and Two Face falls to his death into spiked rocks and ocean water. With The Riddler crazy and in Arkham Asylum, Chase knows now she loves the man behind that bat.

I must say I liked this comic adaptation better then the film it’s based on! Gone is the terrible over acting of Tommy Lee Jones as Two Face; missing is Jim Carey’s version of The Riddler just being silly and Ace Ventura like.  Instead we get a fun kid friendly Batman adventures that is laced with some fun silly moments. The story has Bruce Wayne and his alter ego Batman once more falling for a woman who is torn between the two, not knowing till later that they are the same person.  Along the way Batman makes enemies with a crazy inventor and a baddy from his past comes out to play. He also adopts a circus performer who turns into his sidekick in fighting crime. Batman/Bruce Wayne in this issue is on the verge of walking away from crime fighting to settle down with a woman he once more just meet, but by some point comes to learn that both sides of his life are important, and they can come together. Dick Grayson/Robin for the most part takes a back seat and is used just right, not forcing him down your throat and allowing him to become important to the film’s end plot. Chase Meridian is smart and pretty but besides being a love interest does nothing to special to make her on the level of Vicki Vale or Selina Kyle. The Riddler/ Edward Nygma is crazy and wants to really show Bruce Wayne up and is obsessed with power.  His defeat coming by his own invention is well done, as is the fact his head becomes misshapen with the overload. Two Face loves to kill and is a good comic book villain in this comic. The lame thing is once more Two Face, much like The Joker and Penguin before him dies via a fall! The cover on this one is okay and not as eye catching as the other two.  The art done by Michel Dutkiewicz is really great and helps add to the over all appeal of the comic. To sum it up, a solid good adaptation that is better then the movie it’s based on!

Batman Forever Art 1Batman Forever Art 2Batman Forever Art 3

Two Face dead via a fall onto some pointy rocks and The Riddler looks like the Elephent Man and is in the loony bin.  So who’s next on Batman’s list to rid Gotham of?  Let’s read the last to find out!

Batman & Robin 1

Batman & Robin  # 1  **1/2
Released in 1997   Cover Price $3.95   DC Comics   #1 of 1

Batman and Robin try to stop Mr. Freeze from stealing a giant diamond but fall short when Robin is turned into an icicle and Batman must save him from freezing to death as Mr. Freeze escapes. Meanwhile in South America, Dr. Pamela Isley is working on a chemical that will make plants stronger as her partner Dr. Jason Woodrue uses it to make super soldiers and creates Bane, a muscle bound brute who does what he’s told.  When Isley finds out, he attacks her and knocks her into chemicals that turns her into Poison Ivy who kills Woodrue with a kiss, and she and Bane heads to Gothan City. Meanwhile Mr. Freeze is only doing all these bad things so that he can get money for research to cure his sick wife.  While Alfred’s niece Barbra comes to visit and stays at Wayne Manor. Batman uses diamonds from his private collection to lure Mr. Freeze out of hiding but it also draws out Poison Ivy who turns Batman and Robin against each other to get her attention. But the trap works, and they are able to capture Mr. Freeze and send him to Arkham Asylum, but the heat between Batman and Robin grows deeper. Ivy and Bane break Freeze out, and Batman and Robin find them at Freeze’s old hideout and while they fight off Bane they also come face to face with Ivy again who uses her charm to make Robin and Batman fight which leaves Robin knocked out.  She also unplugs Mr. Freeze’s wife and blames it on Batman making him want to kill his enemy. During this time we also find out Alfred is sick with the same disease that was killing Freeze’s wife leaving Bruce, Barbra and Dick helpless to save their friend and loved one. Barbra finds out the secret and becomes Batgirl and teams with Batman and Robin to fight off Ivy, Bane and Mr. Freeze who plans to make the whole world freeze in another ice age. Batgirl takes out Ivy with Robin beating Bane and Batman knocks around Mr. Freeze and tells him that Ivy pulled the plug on his wife but he saved her just in time and talks sense into him and gets him to help cure Alfred’s diseases. In the end, Alfred is okay and Batman & Robin have a new partner in Batgirl as Ivy gets a new cellmate Mr. Freeze!

The first thing that I have to say about this adaptation is that I hate the fact it starts off showing a movie set setting up the first shot…this takes you 100% out of the comic and makes you say who cares it’s all just a movie.  Dumb move by DC for allowing this to be the opening panel of this comic. But take that terrible mistake out of the picture, and this is a fun average adaptation that showcases the silly nature of the film it’s based on. The plot is Alfred is sick and his loved ones want to save him, Batman has an issue trusting that Robin can handle himself, Ivy wants to save Mother Earth and Mr. Freeze wants to save his wife….this comic is all about saving. Batman is a little controlling in this one and seems to almost have a chip on his shoulder, but as Bruce Wayne he is more caring and worried about his sick friend Alfred. Robin is a ball of rage as he feels Batman just won’t let him be the hero he is. Batgirl is a waste in this comic and besides the very end when Barbra becomes Batgirl, she is given very little to do. Alfred is caring and sick so you find yourself hoping and knowing he will get better. Poison Ivy is an extreme environmentalist who puts nature over human lives, and for all accounts is like a pretty ex-girlfriend who is borderline psychotic. Bane is a mindless brute who says nothing at all through at the whole comic.  He is as far from his comic counter part and is nothing more than a glorified henchman. Mr. Freeze retains all his cheesy one liners that all tie in to cold, and is a bad guy that you feel sorry for as he is doing everything bad to try and save his wife, but man when he’s doing bad he goes for broke! Much like the movie that I don’t think is as terrible as people say it is, this is pretty average and cuts out many of the really silly things from the movie like the Bat Credit Card. The cover is average as well and for some reason more reminds me of the kid’s novel version that you would find at a book fair. The art is done by Rodolfo Damaggio and is pretty well done.  In some panels it seems rushed but is not terrible looking even then. Over all if you like the film check it out, otherwise I would avoid this one.

Batman & Robin Art 1

That was a good time for me, and we have read some pretty good comic adaptations that did the films they were based on justice. The art of making movie adaptations seems to be lost as now it’s not so much a comic of the movie as they are mini series that act as lead up to the films. Say what you will about them now, but The Batman films was a series that got the young and young at heart hyped to go to the movies and I for one grew up being a Batman kid thanks to not only the 60’s TV show but also the 89 Burton film.  So with this I should tell you the next update will be my top films of 2014 and I look forward to bringing you that. Well I hope you all have a great Christmas and Santa brings you all what ever you asked for.  Until then spend time with your loved ones, read a comic or two and have a safe holiday.

2014