Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Batman Takes Over: The Starlog Project, Starlog #179, June 1992


We are still living in the wake created by the passage of Tim Burton’s bat-films through American film culture. Nearly 20 years later, the films in the cinemas might be by Christopher Nolan and a Christian Bale suffering from a speech impediment, but I think it’s safe to say that those movies would not have existed or would at least have been nowhere near as dark as they are if Burton hadn’t first paved the way with Batman and Batman Returns.

In fact, when his Batman originally came out, the talk about it was that his vision of Gotham City and its caped crusader was too dark – visually and thematically. For an aging Bat-audience that was still pining for Adam West’s camp version from 1960s television, it was the height of presumption on Burton’s part to recast the story in a darker, scarier, more violent direction. And “recast” was only part of the controversy; people howled at the casting of quirky (I mean that in the best way) actor Micheal Keaton as Batman.

Burton proved them wrong, and with the 1992 release of Batman Returns, he made a sequel that was arguably better than the first movie. With another casting twist that was laughed at before people saw the film, he picked Danny DeVito to portray the Penguin, and DeVito delivered a fireworks-and-send-them-all-home-happy performance.

Batman Returns was big, and Starlog plays it up big-time. This issue, the magazine includes a 16-page color portfolio of preproduction paintings from the film, plus other coverage. The movie is also on the cover for the second month in a row; in fact, I believe Batman Returns sets an all-time record with the next issue when it achieves a three-consecutive-months reign on the cover.

Starlog #179
100 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $5.95

Speaking of the cover, it’s actually a very striking photo they chose, with the raised bat-symbol shining out from under blowing snow. Were I designing the cover myself, I would have reduced the text below the image, because as it is now, it kind of detracts from the power of the photo. But it‘s still a strong cover that reflects the cold metal feel of the film.

The rundown: The Bat-cover kicks off the magazine, and Beauty & the Beast is featured on the contents page; David McDonnell’s abbreviated Medialog column warns us about The Forever King, featuring a reincarnated King Arthur who’s a “10-year-old Chicago boy and the proud owner of the Holy Grail”; Booklog reviews The Catswold Portal, Cloven Hooves, Mother Lode, Kalimantan, Bicycling Through Time and Space, Remaking History, The Trinity Paradox, and The Face of the Waters; the Communications section sprawls over seven pages and actually manages to include topics other than Star Trek, namely everything from Eerie, Indiana to Freejack to Time Tunnel to Highlander II to … well, Star Trek, plus there’s Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile of the Alien from the movie of the same name; David Hutchison’s Videolog announces the laserdisc release of the George Pal “ultra-classic” The Time Machine, plus other releases; and, in his From the Bridge column, Kerry O’Quinn highlights the High Fantasy Society, “ a live-action role-playing club” with fake swords.

Production designer Martin Asbury talks to Stan Nicholls about his designs for Alien3, illustrated with many of his storyboards for that underrated film; Marc Shapiro interviews Bo Welch, production designer for Batman Returns; Abbie Bernstein chats with actor Clive Mantle, who discusses his roles in Alien3 and Robin of Sherwood (and who utters the timeless words, “[F]or two episodes, I wore this wig. It had a personality all its own; it was like a dead poodle on my head.”); Lee Goldberg profiles writer Don Ingalls,who discusses his Star Trek scripts “A Private Little War” (which aired under a pseudonym) and “The Alternative Factor,” and he notes that he later worked with Shatner again on T.J. Hooker, but by then “the young eagerness of his Star Trek days was gone . … However, all stars over the years acquire a certain arrogance and sometimes lose a little of their acting edge by doing that. They become too confident.”; Kyle Counts interviews actor Bob Colbert about his career, in particular his starring role in Time Tunnel; a 16-page center section features preproduction designs from Batman Returns; and Rich Harvey makes his first appearance in the pages of Starlog with a look at the new Indiana Jones novels by Rob MacGregor.

Edward Gross interviews writers Linda Campanelli and Shelly Moore about their work on the late fantasy TV series Beauty & the Beast, and Gross co-writes a sidebar with Stephanie Wiltse about a possible Beauty & the Beast film; Marc Shapiro talks to B-movie star Tim Tomerson about his roles in Trancers, The Twilight Zone, and Quark (remember that late-1970s NBC SF sitcom?), about which he says, “It was a real wacky show. I would come in each week, take one look at the script and just die laughing.”; Sandra Brandenburg and Debora Hill contribute their first article to the magazine with an interview of fantasy novelist Katharine Kerr (The Dragon Revenant, Polar City Blues, and others); Pat Jankiewicz profiles television director Leo Penn, who talks about working on the original Star Trek series (and he has nice words about Shatner), as well as Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. (yes, girl), Lost in Space, and more; the Fan Network pages includes Lia Pelosi’s usual directory of science-fiction fan clubs and publications (including the German Terminator Fan Club), plus the convention listings; Pat Jankiewicz talks with director Herb Kenwith, another Star Trek vet (“The Lights of Zetar”); and ye kindly editor, David McDonnell, pens his Liner Notes column, a plug for Starlog contributor Will Murray’s Doc Savage novels.
“My take on Gotham City is as this hideous, grotesque thing laying beneath an infrastructure that’s overlayed on a legitimate city to hold it together. It’s a more American look that reflects bad zoning and decay sitting next to beauty. Gotham Plaza is a good example of what I’ve attempted to do with all of this movie’s architecture. It’s a caricature whose scale has been totally exaggerated. It also contains an idea I had: To combine neo-fascist and 1930s World’s Fair architecture. The result has been a city that literally overwhelms its occupants in a massive, dehumanizing way.”
–Bo Welch, production designer, interviewed by Marc Shapiro: “Dark Designs”
For more, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent site.
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