Sunday, February 21, 2010

Shazam!

So here's the scoop - even though Cartoon Network has been messing around with the schedule, delaying new episodes until March, itunes has been sticking to the original schedule, meaning you can download The Super-Batman of Planet X! and The Power of Shazam! right now if you want, and presumably the much anticipated (and deservedly so) Chill of the Night! this upcoming Friday.


Now, as big a fan as I am of Captain Marvel, who guest-stars in The Power of Shazam!, I want to talk here about something else that happens in that episode. Something that took me five years to finally accomplish, after repeated failures.  In its own way, the culmination of a lifetime's obsession.  I'm talking about...



Blowing up the Red Tornado.


I became a comic fan back in Nineteen Seventy Something, reading Justice League of America comics in what has retroactively been dubbed the Satellite Era.  Back then, the Justice League had anywhere from ten to fourteen members, half of whom had their own titles.  So usually the writers focused on the other half for character development, and pre-eminent among these B-listers, to my young eyes at least, was the Red Tornado.

Now, the Red Tornado was an android with wind powers and a Pinocchio complex.  Pretty straightforward comic book stuff.  But what drew me to the character was his tenacity. In the era I was introduced to the character, he blew up at least three times, returning from the grave a few issues later each time.  It was almost like his secondary superpower was dramatically sacrificing himself in that gruesomely explosive way that you can only achieve in a Comics Code Approved book with robots.

So many years later, I ended up picking up a little freelance storyboarding work from Justice League.  The episode was Panic in the Sky, and I was boarding a little sequence where the Justice League satellite is under siege from an army of superpowered clones called the Ultimen.  In the middle of the fray, taking up a solitary sentence in the script, was a showdown between Red Tornado and a bunch of Ultimen.  Here, I thought, was a chance to pay homage to my favorite hero in the appropriate fashion - by killing him in a blaze of exploding glory.

So I boarded it that way - Red Tornado beats Wind Dragon but is then overloaded by Juice, and dies in a big electrical explosion.  Unfortunately, Panic in the Sky happened after The Return, in which the Red Tornado also blows up, and James Tucker, producer of Justice League Unlimited, felt that blowing the Red Tornado up twice was once too many.  I argued that blowing up heroically was basically Red Tornado's whole schtick, but James didn't buy it, and Reddy remained unexploded that day.

A few years pass, and I get a call from Sam Register about a new show James is developing called Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and am I interested in working on it?  Of course I'm all for that, especially when Sam, knowing my weaknesses, mentions the prominent role that Red Tornado will be playing as one of the most frequent guest-stars.  In short order, I was on the Warner Bros. ranch drawing Batman and Green Arrow dangling over a pit of acid.

Now, here's how they decide which director directs which show - it's pretty much just left to chance.  But if there's a script coming up that you have a special interest in, there's no harm in letting James or Michael Jelenic know that you wouldn't mind if that script happened to fall into your slot.  And when I got there, in the first batch of scripts was a perfect chance to blow up the Red Tornado in classic style.  So I dropped a few hints about how I sure do like the Red Tornado, and if nobody else wanted that particular script, maybe I could have a go at it?  Which everyone was fine with, so show 4 was to be Invasion of the Secret Santas! starring the ever-exploding android, Red Tornado.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the scripts each have their own challenges, so they get done when they get done, and sometimes that means a script will get delayed or pushed forward to stay on schedule.  Secret Santas wasn't going to be done in time to be show 4, but Day of the Dark Knight! was ready, so that became show 4, and Secret Santas got bumped to show 5.

And so it was left to Brandon Vietti to explode Red Tornado.  And a bang-up job he did - it was a classic Red Tornado explosion, easily one of the character's best.  As proud as I was that Red Tornado got his moment to explode in the spotlight, and as much as I enjoyed watching it, I was still left with the nagging feeling that I wanted to be the one with my finger on the detonator.

And then, 32 episodes later, purely by chance, the script to Power of Shazam! landed on my desk.  And there in the teaser was the moment I had been waiting years for - a chance to explode my childhood hero.  You can believe I boarded that part myself!

And so, after five years and two failed attempts, here it is - I have finally exploded my childhood hero, the Red Tornado.

There's also twenty-one and a half other minutes of stuff in the episode too.

So 2 measly bucks will get you early access to a full Captain Marvel episode, steeped with Captain Marvelly goodness.  Or wait 'til March, whatever.

All characters ™ and © DC Comics.

13 comments:

Michael said...

Mr. Jones, would you happen to know who voiced Thaddeus Jr. and Georgia Sivana? They weren't listed in the voice credits after the episode. Thanks!

I also thought it was clever and cool to sneak in new costumes for Black Lightning and Katana. And even Mary's Mister Tawky Tawny doll. Loved the episode, so worth the $2.

Ben Jones said...

Jim Piddock did Thaddeus Sr and Jr both, and Georgia was Tara Strong. You'll be able to get a better look at Black Lightning and Katana's new costumes later this season.

Michael said...

Thanks again, Mr. Jones.

potato farm girl said...

Yay explosions,and robots! Exploding robot even better!
I got to work on "The Big Chill", the voice record for that was fun!

Anonymous said...

This is possibly the best thing I've ever read. Having just come off watching the ep I NEVER expected THAT of all things to be the crowning achievement, but now it makes so much sense.

Ben Jones said...

Sorry, Michael, I hit the wrong button and accidentally rejected your post. Her it is-

Right before Sivana summons Black Adam, he points to some ancient hieroglyphics. Was one of them a scene depicting Mighty Adam fighting Starro?

And here's the answer -

No, that was actually just a generic Giant Octopus Monster. There was another shot in the flashback showing Black Adam fighting it, plus a shot showing Black Adam fighting a cluster of mummies, but I think they got cut. The Starro thing would have been pretty clever though.

Ben Jones said...

Sorry again Michael, I accidentally rejected this one too -

That sounds like an entertaining scene, I hope this shows up eventually, online or in a DVD release.

Sadly, your comments are generally surrounded by a sea of spam (from Russia and China, from the looks of it), so I get a little trigger happy with the Reject button.

Even more sadly, I doubt there'll be any deleted scenes content any time soon - honestly, we just don't have enough to make it worthwhile. Little 2 and 3 second bits here and there, mostly. And really, that scene kinda got got cut 'cause it didn't really look all that good to begin with - so maybe it's not all that sad.

Michael said...

No problem. Would you be able to post pictures/sketches of the octopus monster and those mummies? That's all I was really wanted to see.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say thanks for helping to bring this show to life. Just saw the last few episodes on iTunes...all amazing. "Chill of the Night!" was so moving...the moment in the second act between Batman and someone he hadn't seen in a long time brought me to tears.

"Power of Shazam!" was also quite a treat. I love Captain Marvel, and seeing his mythos so well-represented was a dream come true. The final scene of that episode was also quite touching.

And "Super-Batman of Planet X!" was just pure fun...definitely among my favorite episodes.

These first 11 episodes of the season have been so strong, I don't know how guys are gonna top them. But I'm sure you will, since this show never disappoints. Crossing my fingers for a third season!

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