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Sean Daly, Michelle Stark and Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Cartoons, Condi and Considering Katherine Harris

28

March

It hit me this weekend, while I was marveling at how well the Wachowski brothers had kept what worked from the V For Vendetta graphic novel, but made the necessary changes to create a Big Hollywood Movie: Comic books are respected now.

Not just as great fodder for big money popcorn movies, though there is that. But comic books have now gained respect as a grown-up, honest-to-goodness creatively valid medium for storytelling worthy of Hollywood's appropriation.

It's something I noticed while checking out the trailer for the new Superman movie, Superman Returns. Even in this abbreviated preview, there were visual images taken straight from Frank Miller's classic reimagining of the Superman/Batman legend, The Dark Knight. Likewise, with last year's hit Batman movie, Batman Begins -- only their source material was Miller's groundbreaking retelling of the Caped Crusader's origin, Batman Year One (the opening shot of a young Bruce Wayne falling down a well is recreated almost exactly from the comic).

I know this isn't the normal media stuff I blog about. But sitting there in a darkened theater, watching the guys who invented the Matrix bring one of the comic world's most subversive, downbeat tales to life, I was in comic book geek heaven.

I always knew these books had a storytelling power other mediums lacked. And now the rest of the world does, too.

It is no coincidence that, for the most part, the most successful movies to tap this new storytelling engine are those which take the source material seriously. Ang Lee's attempt to turn The Hulk into a highfalutin' commentary on father/son issues only birthed a muddled mess of a movie; Catwoman couldn't decide if it was a carefree popcorn superhero film or a saucy satire -- it wound up making audiences forget Halle Berry ever got near an Oscar.

But the films which dare to embrace their comic book lineage -- Sin City, Spider Man, the X-Men films -- are rewarded with thrilling action tales of substance. Small wonder Hollywood is turning to Miller and Alan Moore, two of comic's great visionaries, for ideas which breathe new life into superhero films.

Now, in V for Vendetta, we have a movie based on a comic written 17 years ago which resonates today -- the tale of an authoritarian regime drawing power by scaring its populace into allowing horrific breaches of civil liberties. And the ultimate lesson: What the people give, they can also take away. A trenchant tale for our times, to be sure.

True enough, there are lots of folks who just liked seeing the guy in the freaky mask take out the bad guys with his cool swordfighting moves and kung fu. That's always been the beauty of comic books -- storytelling on whatever level you can handle.

Condi Has No Problem With Coon Talk...and, Surprisingly, Neither Do I

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accepted the apology of a radio talk show host fired for mistakenly calling her a coon on air, saying "My understanding is that he apologized, said he didn't mean it. I accept that, because we all say things from time to time that we shouldn't say or didn't mean to say."

And although this may surprise some folks who read this blog regularly, I just might agree with her.

No doubt it was a stupid slip of the tongue when KTRS-AM host Dave Lenihan described why Rice would be a great NFL commissioner, saying, "She's African-American, which would kind of be a big coon. . . a big coon?' Oh my god. I am totally, totally, totally, totally, totally sorry for that. OK? I didn't mean that. That was just a slip of the tongue."

Given that there seems to be no proof that Lenihan acted on purpose, I'm concerned about the message sent by firing him. Dismayed as I am that anybody would even fleetingly place coon next to Condi's name on air, it seems that delivering the ultimate punishment for a mistake may be too harsh.

Maybe I'm getting soft in my old age. But if we want to talk about race honestly, we have to do it in a climate where people won't fear losing their career for a momentary slip of the tongue -- no matter how awful the mistake.

The Bay Area's Conservative Paper Gets Tough on Harris

Is it me, or is the Tampa Tribune out for Katherine Harris scalp?

I've been watching the paper's coverage of her disintegrating campaign, and it has been tough and uncompromising -- from contrasting previous promises of openness with foot-dragging on releasing documents related to her relationship with a defense contractor guilty of bribery to Tuesday's story on Adam Goodman leaving her campaign.

The departure of Goodman, a savvy insider who gave Harris' campaign an early boost, was relegated to a brief in the Times Tuesday. But the Tribune put his departure on the front page, offering a story filled with speculation on how she may have been affected by her father's death in January -- making her unbalanced enough to accuse Goodman of leaking a damaging story to the media over the weekend.

Brusing coverage like that in the Times would be enough to get conservatives gnashing their teeth about what a liberal rag we've become yet again (heck, my blog posting making fun of her awkward announcement that she wasn't dropping out of the race drew that kind of reaction). But in Nixon-goes-to-China kind of way, the Tribune has been able to challenge Harris in each story -- pushing a woman who seems woefully unprepared for her own candidacy.

Wonder how many readers have accused the Tribune of being a hitman for establishment Republicans?

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:36pm]

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