Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Happy Birthday, Alex

Happy 3rd Birthday to Papa's Boy. Time is sure flying by...


The Calculator

   The villain in tonight's episode of Arrow is The Calculator, a character I created way back in 1976. At the time, pocket calculators were the tech rage and a villain with a number pad on his chest fit right in. By punching in a series of numbers, he could create any number of weapons that shot out of the panel on his headgear.
  There were a number of things that were unique about the villain's crime campaign. First of all, he only stole items when they were at their most valuable. (I explained this concept to editor Julie Schwartz this way: Five minutes before the opening of a Broadway show, the Calculator steals all the costumes. If he stole them the day before, they could be replaced.)
  Second, he had a secret calculation that he punched in when he was captured by the hero. This prevented that hero from ever capturing him again.
  Finally, he appeared in a series of back-up stories in Detective Comics, battling and being defeated by The Atom, Black Canary, Elongated Man, Green Arrow, and Hawkman, before facing off with Batman in an issue-long conclusion to the series. Before this final battle, The Calculator had punched in his secret code and none of the heroes was able to capture him a second time. Batman, however, maneuvered him into a situation in which The Calculator actually captured himself.

  I brought The Calculator back five years later in a team-up story in Action Comics featuring The Atom and Air Wave. The Atom, because of his prior encounter with the villain, was unable to defeat him, so he called on Air Wave to do so.
  And I brought him back one more time in my Hero Hotline miniseries in 1989, this time hinting that he had some longtime connection to The Coordinator, who ran HH. 

  The character was reinvented by other writers after that. He was changed from a costumed villain into a techie who used the internet to aid other criminals in their nefarious deeds. This version played a major role in a couple of the company-wide crossovers. 
  In the Batman: The Brave & the Bold cartoon series episode "Night of the Huntress," there is another incarnation that is a cross between the two. This Calculator, an overweight guy named Myron who lives in his mother's basement, wears the top half of the costume but sits at a computer providing info for other criminals.
  Tonight's Calculator is being played by Tom Amandes. I expect he will be much closer to the latter-day version, but it will still be fun to see a character I created forty years ago making it to the live-action DC Universe.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Apples and Trees

  I cleaned out a closet yesterday and came across an envelope of old photos that my grandfather had passed along to me. Among them was the one below, most likely taken in the summer of 1954.

This next one is from about thirty years later.

And compare those with this one, taken last month.

What is it they say about apples not falling far from trees?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Holy Bat-Memories, Batman!

  My pals Bob Greenberger and Paul Kupperberg have both blogged about watching the first episode of the Batman TV series fifty years ago today. (Check out their posts by clicking the links in the column to the right.)
  As a heavy-duty comics fan, I too looked forward to the program. I had been reading Batman comics since 1959 and was a fan of both the Jack Schiff version with its aliens, gimmicky villains, and strange transformations as well as the more serious Julie Schwartz incarnation. The TV version was neither of these.
   I recall the lunch table discussion with my comics-reading pals the next day in school. None of us could believe that they had turned Batman into such a farce. Of course, that did not stop us from watching it every week from then on. And complaining about the campiness.
   We had hoped that the show would eventually become more like the comics. Unfortunately, the opposite happened. Comic books were overrun with giant sound effects that lasted until the Bat-bubble burst three years later. And the media got a tag to hang every story about comics on for the next half-century.
   Given how popular the dark version of Batman in the movies (and comics) has become, it is hard to believe that the version from the TV series is still remembered so fondly. Maybe some energetic writer will find a way to tie them together. Can you imagine the Bruce Wayne in Gotham growing up to become the Adam West Caped Crusader? That would be something to see!
Watching Batman in 1966, I never would have imagined that I would get to sit in the Batmobile 25 years later

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


  I've had a gym membership ever since I left DC Comics back in 1998. when I'm there, I do 45 minutes or so on the bike or the cross-trainer. I call the latter the "sweat machine" because I am usually drenched by the time I finish.
  My visits are directly related to the weather; if it is warm enough outdoors for a bicycle ride -- 55 degrees or so -- I'll choose that over the gym. And I'll rarely go if volleyball is on the agenda on a given day. I used to go on my way home from work, but now that I'm retired, my schedule is far more flexible. In the past four days, for instance, I've gone at 5:30 p.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.  There are usually very few people in the gym when I go and almost all of them would fall into a category labelled "men of a certain age." Though I can't say for certain, I suspect that many of these gents are the same ones I encounter on the bicycle path when the weather is warmer.

  One phenomenon I've seen over the years is the influx of new faces in the gym each January. Whether it is due to gift memberships or New Year's resolutions to lose some weight, the gym is most crowded in the first few weeks of the year. By the time February rolls around, they've lost interest.
  Some years ago, I was peddling away on one of the bikes and another regular was on the one next to me. We were watching as a gent perhaps ten years our junior made his way from one machine to another, trying them out and making copious notes in a notebook. After the fourteenth machine, he jumped on a treadmill and ran for two minutes.
  "Does this guy think he's going to lose ten pounds in one visit?"
  "Probably," I replied. "He's a Janumember."
  He contemplated the term for a moment, then nodded and said, "Yeah, exactly."