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Editoral: Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and Jane

TarzanLet me start off by saying that I wanted to keep my personal feelings for this project separate from the news.  I have a responsibility to keep the bulk, hopefully all, of my personal feelings aside from the information that might interest people.  Having said that, I do have some very strong personal feelings on matters, so instead of just blasting outright on the Netflix adds Tarzan and Jane news article, I decided to rant here instead.   It’s just easier that way…

For those who didn’t read the synopsis the last time, here it is again:

  • “Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and Jane” (second half of 2016): In modern-day remake of the classic characters, 16-year-old Tarzan returns from the African jungle to a London boarding school where he meets Jane, who helps him solve environmental injustice, crimes and mysteries. The eight-episode season comes from 41 Entertainment and executive producer Avi Arad (which are also developing “Kong – King of the Apes” original series and feature-length film for Netflix) with animation from ARC Prods.

I want to be excited about this.   I REALLY want to be excited to see a project like this become reality.  It’s a favorite character of mine coming back into the limelight.   There are books, movies, television shows, and animation a-plenty for this particular character.  He ranks in good company with the likes of “Sherlock Holmes”, “Dracula”, “Frankenstein”, “the Phantom of the Opera”, to name a select group.  These characters who are brought back time after time, in so many different mediums, to bring a new generation of fans to the table.   That should please the fan in me, or so I’ve come to believe.

Now, I realize for all of this, I’m about to rant on just a small outline of a series that will be almost another year in the making.   Regardless of that, there is so much wrong in the one sentence that sends a cold chill down my spine.  Why?  Let’s examine, shall we?

First: this modern-day remake.  No, absolutely not.   This story has no place in modern day.  “Tarzan” is a product of its time.   When the Claytons were stranded on that desert shore, there was no way to know that they would ever be found, and if they were, who it was that would do the finding.  John Clayton’s life was in the hands of fate.  His parents died horribly in their hideaway in the trees, leaving a baby to be raised by an ape mother.  Kala lost her own child when Kerchak killed it in a fit of blind rage.  A fate that Tarzan almost shared as well, on more than one occasion.   In the late 1800s and the early 1900s, such a fantastic story makes one suspend disbelief.  In today’s society, they would have soon found this “ape-man” incarcerated for study be a battery of scientist, should he ever have been lost for so long.  Technology these days has a far better chance to track where a plane or a boat would have been at the time of its loss.  Charters, radio signals, black boxes, etc. are prevalent.   Suspension of disbelief is out the window that he would turn into the tanned and well-built Jungle Lord that he was when Jane and party found him.

Tarzan in boarding school: I know this is for kids.  The Disney offerings were too.  However, the story of “Tarzan” really isn’t as much for kids as one wants to believe.  It’s often a violent story, with many social overtones to it that even plague today’s society in many ways.  I give Disney’s version a great deal of credit.  Disney's TarzanFor what they did, it gave a great deal of sensibility to the character.  First, they didn’t treat him like he was an idiot.  The man is a sponge when it comes to information.  He had to be.  The circumstances he was raised in dictated the need.  He was a human raised in an environment where his “peers” were 10 to 20 times his strength, and were prone to lose their tempers quickly when something wasn’t going their way.  This means you learn quick, or you die.   He applied that to everything he did.  Would schooling him be necessary?  I’m sure lessons in the ways of the world would be a necessity.  However, I’m very quick to point at “Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes”. Greystoke I find the way he was learning there a far more acceptable way of going about things.  Jane was helping him, he learned his lessons, and he moved on.  A genius level intellect helps with that.  If you’ve read the books, you can tell that he’s got that sort of intelligence.  He’d have to, just based on what he’s capable of doing between books 1 and 3 alone.   The teenage Tarzan going to some stuffy school, away from the jungle setting that he thrives in, is ridiculous.   It reeks of being like James Bond Jr. was back in its day.  The incredible things he and Jane will be getting themselves into will most assuredly lead him to using his jungle-learned skills and will lead to a confused headmaster.   Yeah, I know it’s for kids.  I know I’m reiterating the point, but kids are far more intelligent themselves.  Why play down to them?

Third: The solving of environmental injustices, crimes and mysteries.  I get the environmental injustices.  When in his own jungle, Tarzan would make it very clear about how things would be.  He was lord and master of those lands, any who trespassed and meant to kill an animal for sport, to destroy the lands, or cause any amount of trouble was subject to jungle law.  You were strong enough to beat him, then do as you will.  If you weren’t strong enough, if he didn’t beat you into submission, likely you were going to be killed.  Tarzan didn’t screw around with a lot of second chances.  If you managed to survive a meeting, it was because something general came about to separate you two out, and he would be satisfied with that until you returned.   That’s on you.   Crimes and mysteries?   Is every crime going to be about him or those he cares about?   I highly doubt that.  Besides, you’re overlooking the true nature of who Tarzan is in British society.  He’s Lord Greystoke.  This is a role he takes very seriously, and he acts with the manners of a gentleman and English Lord when in those roles.  He tries to trust things to the laws of society, because it’s expected.  Sure, there have been exceptions.  However, these exceptions have only come for the sake of personal wrong.    In a kids cartoon, I give leeway to certain things, but if I’m being brutally honest, this should be a period outing, and it should be done more like the “Batman: Animated Series”.   Given that the person running this show was one of the masterminds behind “Spider-Man: The Animated Series”, then you’ve already got a basic template.  Treat it with more reverence to the story.

Changing things for kids, or for change’s sake:  I mentioned “Batman: TAS”, and “Spider-Man: TAS”, I would point that “Gargoyles” in the two years before it became the Saturday Morning Cartoon as being perfect example how to do things.  You have a rich history to build from.  You don’t necessarily have to take every storyline that Tarzan ever went through to get the heart of the character.  However, a little attention paid to it would be nice.  Adapting doesn’t mean bastardizing.   Most people fall into this trap of belief that just because it’s been seen before, it’s gotten tired.   In some cases that’s true.  It’s very true.   However, when it’s been a good long while between outings, we can also look at things with a new sensibility and say it worked.   It can also work just as good, if not better than the last guy.  All we have to do is bump a little closer to template than the last guys did.

Is it too much for kids?   Depends.   If you’re going to show him cutting out the heart of an animal, yeah i’d say that’s too much.   If you allow the more graphic things to happen off the screen, and elude to possible worse fates, than perhaps not.  Disney’s version had the hunter, Clayton (borrowing the Tarzan family name) get hung from a vine.  a slight burst of thunder to light the shadows gave us the fate of the villain.   That doesn’t have to happen every episode, but it’s still a point of contention.  This isn’t “Captain Planet”, and these kids can learn the difference for themselves.  Yeah, I know, old reference there too,

I want to reiterate the point, one more time about sticking him in his own time frame.   I do not understand the need for everyone wanting to bring these characters forward in time.    You want to tell a story about Jesse & Frank James, you’re going to put them into the old west.  Shoving them into modern day downtown Branson, MO wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense.  What would these characters be fighting for?   Their original motivations for doing things are so well documented, and I mean WELL documented, that you’re going to find it difficult to just misplace them in time and get the same result.  If anything, they would be trading horses for motorcycles, and would be involved in some sort of gang that would likely be terrorizing towns, not knocking over banks.   That’s not Jesse or Frank James.  You now have a “Sons of Anarchy” knock off.

Oh, is my point supposed to be about a character, not real people?  Okay, let’s play that game too.  Let’s take Alan Scott, the Golden Age “Green Lantern”.  You can have the argument that they updated him to the current generation back when the “New 52” introduced “Earth-2”.  Yes, they did.  I believe it was also acknowledge that he was pretty much a completely different character to the original.  Well, yeah, he was.  The original was built in a world where World War II was on its brink, and the depression was still raging everywhere.   The new version was a modern day exec at a production company, who went to China.  He was going to propose to his boyfriend, who died in a train wreck.  However, Alan was saved by a mysterious green flame which turned him into the Green Lantern.   Earth-2 Alan ScottThey took elements, but they completely changed him.   Some will argue, that it’s just because I’m being homophobic and don’t want to see a character I know be pronounced gay.  This has zero to do with a character being pronounced gay.  Changes to characters happen all the time.  Some I like, sometimes I don’t.  However, I  see a marketing ploy for what it is.  There are thousands of Green Lanterns, one for every system in the universe.  A a brand new character could have easily created to fill the void instead of using an established one.   So what’s the marketing ploy? Link bait, pure and simple.  At the time it happened, news sites such as Yahoo, MSN, to every fansite that you could name published the story.  I even wrote about it back when I was writing for SciFiFX.  I’m making much the same argument here.  They wanted to get people reading and then buying the book.  People who hated it would buy it to so they could have something to bash.  People who could relate to him would buy it in support of the decision DC Comics execs made.  Then you have people who were sitting on the fence about it that will go ahead and buy it just to see if the story is actually worth its hype.

alanscott628In any case, the original story of Alan Scott finding the green metal while working on the railroad, then being told by this unknown force to forge a ring and a lantern, is ingrained into my memories.   The origin story, the weakness of the ring to wood, and even the original red, green, purple and yellow costume he wore was a product of time and place.  These elements define the Green Lantern.   Until Hal Jordan came around, that was a very unique mystical powered ring that gave an every day man the advantage to do good and even move up in the world.  When Jordan came around, and the Green Lantern was reworked, he was given a more scientific explanation of his ring, and it just worked.

What does any of this have to do with what I have been talking about with Tarzan?  Okay, bear with me a little while longer.   The point I’m making here is simple.  Much like Alan of the New 52, we’re using a well known property to tell new stories with, because someone didn’t want to bother to create new characters to fit the bill.  Honestly, if we were to make this the grandson or great-grandson of Tarzan, or some kin to Doc Savage, I might be on board with the idea.  To use a gimmick, then to completely remove it from where it works best is only worth it if you’ve got a writer and story worth its salt.  Tell me that what little is said here doesn’t scream that they’re one canine away from owning a Mystery Machine?   You’ll likely disagree with that point.  Any good characters with fleshed out backgrounds could fill these roles in just as well.   That’s what it’s all about.  Using the creator’s name and then butchering the property is wrong.   It’s a shameful publicity grab, because people will pick up on a well-known property.  I object to turning characters into a grab, just because they don’t have anything better to offer.

Final Words: Make your animated series, but don’t use the Lord of the Jungle.  Wait until you’re ready to actually tell his story, then come back to it.  He has fans, after all.

Netflix adds Tarzan and Jane to New Animation line-up

The logo for the on-demand video streaming service Netflix.

Netflix has released information about 4 new titles that they plan to debut over the course of 2015 into 2016.  Each of them will vary in count of episodes, but will boost Netflix popularity with parents as commercial-free viewing for their children.

The 4 new shows are:

  • “Cirque du Soleil Luna Petunia” (to debut fall 2016): Preschool series from Saban Brands and Cirque du Soleil Média chronicles the adventures of Luna Petunia, a girl who lives in our world but plays in a dreamland where she learns how to make the impossible possible. The first season of 11 episodes will premiere worldwide exclusively on Netflix, kicking off a franchise rollout that will include a consumer products line, interactive digital content and a potential live tour.
  • “Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and Jane” (second half of 2016): In modern-day remake of the classic characters, 16-year-old Tarzan returns from the African jungle to a London boarding school where he meets Jane, who helps him solve environmental injustice, crimes and mysteries. The eight-episode season comes from 41 Entertainment and executiveproducer Avi Arad (which are also developing “Kong – King of the Apes” original series and feature-length film for Netflix) with animation from ARC Prods.
  • “Kulipari: An Army of Frogs” (2016): Based on the trilogy of books by NFL star Trevor Pryce that were inspired by his childhood fear of frogs. The series targets grade-school boys and follows poisonous frogs, scorpions and spiders who must go to war to ensure their power and the survival of their entire world. The 13-episode season, produced by Splash Entertainment and Outlook Company, will premiere worldwide exclusively on Netflix in 2016.
  • “Puffin Rock” (Sept. 1, 2015, in major markets): Set on an island off the coast of Ireland, series revolves around charismatic and plucky young puffling Oona, who with her curious little brother Baba explores a diverse array of sea, sky, land and underground creatures. Actor Chris O’Dowd narrates the English-language version of the series, from Penguin Random House Children’s, Dog Ears and animation studio Cartoon Saloon. The 13-episode season premieres exclusively on Netflix in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, Benelux, France and Germany in September, and with other Netflix territories to follow at a later date.

Netflix is also adding three new first-run exclusive kid series: “Masha and the Bear”, “The Day My Butt Went Psycho”,  and “Elias”.

Netflix has a win-win scenario with this.  It gives the parents hours of entertainment for their kids, the episodes don’t have to be cut for time, and the most successful will drive people to keep up their subscription for whenever new seasons of shows will premiere.  In the meantime, people can still enjoy a variety of family friendly, and more grown-up entertainment as they blast through things from “Puss-N-Boots”, “M*A*S*H*”, “Daredevil”, to “Orange is the New Black”.  Plenty for everyone, in an age where more people turn away from cable due to expense and overall lack of programming.   It’s things like “Game of Thrones” or “Penny Dreadful” that keep people coming back, but even at that, more than a few have gone to the HBO GO, or Showtime on Demand services.  Those that haven’t just download the episode offline.  Numbers  don’t lie on that.  Even so, the waiting game seems to be on the viewer’s side.  Those who don’t mind the wait will likely find that  HBO and Netflix will eventually strike some sort of deal for the rights to show “Game of Thrones”  and “Penny Dreadful”.  

Back on to the children’s side of things, I’ve found a great amount of material to benefit from the Netflix library.  Watching “Batman Beyond”, “Justice League”, “Justice League Unlimited”, “Garfield and Friends” (though this one in short doses), and several new release films.   When Cartoon Network may not win the day completely, and Boomerang isn’t showing the cartoons of yesteryear that a kid may want to see, this opens up so many doors.  It can allow parents to introduce things to their kids they enjoyed growing up.   Add the benefit of original programming, helping to further give a kid their Saturday morning cartoon fix back.  Netflix just wins all around.

Review – Masks (2012)

MasksWhat is to follow will be full of spoilers, read at your own risk.

In 2012 writer Chris Roberson, and artist Alex Ross, brought together a rather unique crossover decades in the making.   The story, Masks, brought together the Shadow, Margo Lane, the Spider, the Green Hornet & Kato, Zorro, the Green Lama, Miss Fury, Black Bat,  and the Black Terror.   Some of these characters are so obscure that the average fan might not even know who they are, but for those of us in the know, it’s a treat to see some of these things get brought back to life in such style.

The premise- In an altered version of a story from the Spider; The Justice Party has come to power in New York State.  So much so, that the newly elected governor and mayor are a part of the new system.  Laws are being passed to arrest vagrants, new arrivals in town, people of different race, among many others.  Taxes are being collected from the rich and affluent,  Former criminals and other thugs are being put into stormtrooper outfits as the new police force, known as the Black Legion.  The newly arrested are also being forced into camps to keep them away from society, as the “Master” of the Justice Party attends to getting the nation ready for his brand of Law, Justice, and Order.   The only thing standing in his way of completing this task is a group of famous vigilantes who start to systematically shut down the operation from the very beginning of the book.

The group must fight through the Black Legion, find the head of the organization, and bring New York back into the hands of real law and order before the the Master seizes the rest of the country.

The Good – Like I said, from the outset of the book, we’re introduced to the Green Hornet, Kato, and the Shadow.  They’re busting heads of the Black Legion, despite the overwhelming odds and in true form of the Shadow, he takes command and gives the opposition the worst day of their lives.    That’s one thing I can say for certainty, the characters are played up really well here.  They stay rather true to form in most instances, there are some slips here and there.

The story plays itself like a pulp, just as it should.  Had this come out in the 40s (when I believe the last of the characters that appear in the book would have been created, such as Black Terror and the Green Lama) this would have been a great black & white serial.   It has shades of the books and the radio broadcasts of the day.  Even down to the cliches that the Shadow utters.

“The Weed of Crime Bears Bitter Fruit…”

I can tell Roberson had a lot of fun writing this story out.  Who wouldn’t?  The love of pulp characters is one that runs deep with fandom, but the problem I’ve found over the years is that the deeper you go with it, the more you have to keep digging down to get to the well.  More people don’t seem to know who these guys are or what their motives might be.   Once in awhile these characters pop out of nowhere, and make me realize just how appreciative that the 30s and 40s characters can still live with new stories vs. just sitting in the back of a bin somewhere rotting.   Zorro will always find a way to get into films.  The Shadow and Doc Savage, will have their stories reprinted time and again.  They were the hard hitters of their age, and for good reason, but as they lead the charge of the pulp brigade, so should they bring others with them into this age.  People should appreciate just who these characters are and were.

I was also thrilled by the artwork.  The first issues was fully done by Ross, which is a treat these days.  The rest of the art was done by Dennis Calero.   I like a great deal of his stuff.   There were a couple spots were the Shadow looked more insane than he did menacing, but it certainly didn’t last very long.   The movements of the characters looked fluid enough to make me appreciate the art style, and hope to see more of his stuff in future.

The Bad –  As I said, I enjoyed the story.  However, this story does suffer from some little points that I found myself asking.   I realize I have to give certain conceits to the writers, but I still have to ask.   The first point is how did the Justice Party come to fruition in a world with the Shadow?   If they took over another state and started to work outwards from there, I might have actually bought it.  They used the Empire State Building (which I will be getting back to in a moment), so this puts the Party right into Shadow country.   He would have been all over this like Batman on the Joker.  He would has sussed out what the situation was and cut the head off the Master as soon as he arose.   Again, I give the conceit that this needed to be in place to make sure that we had a story to tell.  Their are many threats the Shadow has to face, and this one just came into prominence while he was busy dealing with around 100 others.

Justice IncConspicuous by his absence is Doc Savage.   I know that Dynamite didn’t have the rights to the character at the time they did this book, which is what makes their latest pulp crossover, Justice Inc., so important.  This books teams Doc with the Shadow and the Avenger. However, seeing the Empire State Building being used, and the reference the Shadow gave in the book, made it scream out that they needed him all the more.

The other thing that I point is that another old hero is used as the villain in this story.  The Clock is an old time mask. The Clock The first in a mask, but no superpowers to hit comics back in the day.  This, much like other things, is a minor complaint.   I’ve just seen hero-turned-villain so many times that it seems to me that there could have been someone from the pulp past that could have served the story better.   The Clock’s story was at least understandable.   It also set up an interesting twist to the Black Bat origin story, as they decided to use it here.   However, the reveal really wasn’t that shocking, and it turned a hero who’s been given the shaft a few different times another stab in the ribs.

The eight issues of this book also seemed to fly by.  I mean there was not a great deal of meat put behind these things.  I would have loved to see a few things progress a little more naturally than on fast forward.  Issue 2 with the unmasking seemed so out of place, because even despite the odds they were against, it seemed like it was a given that it would happen then.   This should have been an earned moment, not just something haphazardly handed to us.    The best part of that is the Shadow telling the Spider and Hornet that he was simply the Shadow.  You do get to see the Shadow’s alter ego, Lamont Cranston, at the Cobalt Club, which is a great treat, but from that point on it’s all Shadow.  What this screams to me is that each issue should have been anywhere from 48 to 64 pages each.  I know the expense of a series like that, especially when it came to collecting it into trades, but what we have here is something so long in the making that it’s worth it in every respect.

The other thing is that the Shadow could have used a bit more exposition without having to completely speak in cliches.  Yes, the rhetoric is down, he’s  also a mysterious figure, but he’s also got the ability to talk, especially when it gives him the chance to set up that creepy laugh of his.

The Overall – This book is a definite recommend, despite my list of bad stuff.  It just doesn’t outweigh the sheer fun of this series.   It’Masks 1s not the Justice League or the Avengers.   It’s a group of violent heroes, each with their own codes coming together to dole out the 1930s ideas of justice.   There is a heart and soul to the story that just makes me beg to see what else the Dynamite Universe can offer these characters in future.  Perhaps you might agree after you give it a read.

Look Out, Ol’ Big Dog Is Back!

Welcome to the Nation!
Welcome to the Nation!

Wow, has it been a long time for me!

This is a real treat for me to launch a brand new Geekdom Nation into  the world.  Somewhere that I can talk to the fandom public about anything and everything that I love so dearly.

Let me stop for a second, so that we can reacquaint ourselves with one another.  My name is Jeremy, but I generally go by Big Dog.  For around 2+ years I worked with SciFiFX on their articles and podcasts. A couple of guys, Matt and Carl, got together with the intent to reinvent SciFiFX with a podcast and report, review, and generally discuss all things in the world of science fiction.  They jumped at the chance to get the next contributor (Troy), into the mix, because he’s rather well versed in most anything, and usually has a strong opinion about it.  From there, they invited me on, and we had a fun run of things.   However, things got to a point where I felt a bit limited in what we were talking about.  I love science fiction!  I’m always going back through things trying to find the next thing to delve into, because I’ve missed so much over the years.  I’m coming around on that.  However, for as much as I’ve missed on the science fiction front, it’s not my only passion. My fandom reaches across so much.  Music, Food, Superman, the Shadow, Radio, and a plethora of more.  As Geekdom goes, most people tend to shoehorn it into being someone who enjoys comic books, sci-fi, and dresses like a social outcast.  For those of us in the Nation, we know better.  We dress to comfort, we love things far older than the current generation will ever go back to, and we make no apologies for those who don’t keep up.  However, if the average person wants to get that bit of a taste, we’re willing to give them that taste of what they’re missing.  At least, I try to do that as often as I can.

I know that most of this could likely go into a “About Us” page, and believe me when I say that there will be one in future.  However, I wanted to give a personal touch to all of you.   I want you to get to know me, and I hope to get to know everyone else out there too.  We’re fans, or we want to know more about it.  So many live openly in their fandom, and yet there are those that have to hide it because of the ridicule they receive about it.   I think most fans can relate to that under one circumstance or another.  I know for me, it was my love of professional wrestling that has had me mercilessly mocked.  From sports fans, they’ll tell me that it’s all just fake.  From some of my geek friends, I’ve had the same response.    The reason I fell for this was because my grandmother and I would stay up late on Saturday nights and watch it.   I lived in a small town in Texas, the local stations were either from Dallas or Waco.  World Class Championship Wrestling was a must.   At first, my mother would try to put me to bed, and the minute the bell rang I was laying on the floor between the bedroom and living room.   I’d get caught, and put back to bed, but if I heard the name Kevin Von Erich, I was back up and watching the match.

Courtesy of
Courtesy of

I never missed my favorite wrestler.    Unfortunately, after a time, this became a taboo thing.  People grew out of it, but I didn’t.   I hid away that fandom, because it was easier to do that than to let people know I enjoyed it.  I even tried to convince myself that I wasn’t THAT into it. I never could get that down, so I’d always go back.   I’ll go more in-depth on this at a later date, but the point is that I know what that’s like.  It’s unfortunate that so many do.

It all boils down to me being a geek.  I know that I am, and I love every minute of it.  I’m inviting you to come here, be accepted, and enjoy whatever eclectic, weird, or awesome subject that i talk about it.  From Beethoven to Batman, I’m here to discuss all of it.   With all hopes, we’ll expand to more writers over the course of weeks or months, and start to get noticed by more and more.   We are part of a large community, though we all have different views of it.   I don’t discourage that, I relish it.   Love what you love, and tell me why!

Welcome to Geekdom Nation!