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JAMES BOND

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Click below to see my interview with John Wroblewski of Johngysbeat.com from C2E2 in Chicago - April 15, 2012.

 

Click below to hear my interview with John Rothman on KKSF NewsTalk 910 San Francisco, broadcast April 24, 2012.

 

Click below to hear my interview with Dave White of KSAV.com's The Dave White Show, broadcast April 24, 2012.

 

Click below to see my interview with Athena Stamos of CraveOnline.com from WonderCon in Anaheim - March 16, 2012.

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More from WonderCon: CLICK HERE to listen to Bruce's interview about BILLION DOLLAR BATMAN with Tim Powers of Fandom Planet!______________________________________________________

BILLION DOLLAR BATMAN on Greg Vance and Ryan Downing's podcast "Stupid Wankers": CLICK HERE to listen to a one-hour conversation about Batman, Superman and James Bond (CAUTION: some strong language).

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CLICK HERE to see Bruce's April 1, 2012 interview with Chris Brockow from the Superman Supersite!_______________________________________________________________________________

BRUCE SCIVALLY ON WRITING BILLION DOLLAR BATMAN

The interview below covers my memories of Batman and my experiences in writing Billion Dollar Batman.

Q: Why write a book on Batman in movies and TV?

SCIVALLY: I wrote another book, Superman on Film, Television, Radio and Broadway, in 2007, and as I traveled around to comic book conventions promoting it, I was often asked when I would write a book on Batman. So I did.

Q: Why the title Billion Dollar Batman?

SCIVALLY: Because The Dark Knight earned over a billion dollars worldwide. And even before that film was released, Warner Bros. referred to Batman as their biggest corporate asset, so the character is clearly a very vital part of a large multi-national corporation.

Q: What are your earliest memories of Batman?

SCIVALLY: My earliest memory is of Adam West in the classic 1960s TV series. I was all of five years old when the show premiered, and even in north Alabama, where a color TV was a luxury my family couldn't afford, the show made quite an impact. Like the rest of America, my older brother and I were swept up in Batmania. We tuned in every Wednesday and Thursday night to see Batman and Robin battle against the Riddler, the Joker, the Penguin, Catwoman, King Tut and a host of other villains. We persuaded our parents to buy us Batman coloring books and balloons and record albums and even a weird plastic "flying Batman" ornithopter-type toy that never quite worked.

Q: Did you read the Batman comic books?

SCIVALLY: My brother and I began collecting comic books in the early 1970s, and of course we had a heap of Batman comics. This was during the time that writer Denny O'Neil and artist Neal Adams were reinventing the character, making him more modern and mature, and we thought that was pretty cool.

Q: Were you still buying Batman toys?

SCIVALLY: Oh sure. We had the first  Batman and Robin Mego action figures—the ones with removable masks—and a plastic Batmobile for them to ride in.

Q: Is it true you starred in a Batman movie?

SCIVALLY: Kind of. When I was about 13, I decided I wanted to become a filmmaker. So, I got a GAF Dual-8mm projector for Christmas, and among the movies I bought to show on it were edited-down versions of the old 1943 Batman serial. Later on, when my brother and I saved up our allowances and bought a Super 8mm movie camera, we made our own Batman movie. It was actually a spoof called Batdude. Our mother helped us out by sewing some pretty cool Batman and Robin outfits. My brother, being a couple of years older than me, and taller, was Batdude; I was a very knob-kneed, skinny-legged Rotten, the Boy Blunder. Our silent 10-minute epic, shot on a budget of about $20 and change, received good notices from the three or four people who saw it.

Q: Do you still have it?

SCIVALLY: No comment.

Q: When you moved to Los Angeles, did you have any Bat-sightings?

SCIVALLY: After I graduated from USC, I looked about for a job and ended up as, of all things, a security guard at a condominium off the Sunset strip. One of the residents was Burt Ward—Robin from the 1960s TV show—who was always cheerful and still brimming with youthful energy. And several years later, after Michael Keaton became Batman, I saw him in a vegetarian sandwich shop in West L.A. But I'd seen Keaton prior to that, at the premiere of Batman in 1989.

Q: How did you get into the Batman premiere?

SCIVALLY: I was working at a talent agency in Beverly Hills. One morning I happened to see an item in Daily Variety announcing the premiere of Warner Bros. new movie Batman in Westwood that evening. I called a friend and we decided to crash the proceedings. We joined the throngs of fans waiting for the stars to arrive, and caught glimpses of Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson and various other celebrities. There were also numerous fans in costume, some dressed in Adam West-style blue-and-gray outfits, and some in all-black Michael Keaton-style suits. When we were allowed into the theater, you could feel the excitement when a "Batsignal" shone on the theater curtains, and when the film started and Batman first appeared, dropping down from the shadows, there were audible oohs and ahs.
            Shortly after the screening, I received a call from a friend who was a special effects man. He had been hired to lay down thick fog for a music video and needed some extra help, and asked if I was available. The video, which was filming over Memorial Day weekend, was for Prince's "Batdance" song.  I remember arriving on the set to see a dozen dancers dressed as the Joker, with long pointed chins that made them look absolutely identical to the character in the comic book. An hour or so later, the Jokers had their prosthetic chins removed, and were simply sporting white faces and green wigs; apparently, there were copyright issues with making them look too much like the comic book representation.

Q: Did you go to premieres of any other Batman films?

SCIVALLY: No, but I was at a pre-release press screening of Batman and Robin, which a friend who was a film critic invited me to. That was quite a night. We entered the theater, which was packed with other critics and several hundred enthusiastic fans recruited to fill up the theater. Before the film began, a Batsignal was projected onto the theater curtains. The fans cheered mightily.  They continued cheering and applauding as the curtains parted and the film's credits rolled. But as the movie unspooled, the cheers began to taper off, replaced first by groans and then by boos. Thirty minutes in, people began walking out. By the halfway point, only the hard-core fans and critics who felt duty-bound to see the film all the way through remained. When it ended, there was no applause, only silence. For the Warner Bros. executives in the theater, it must have been devastatingly depressing—what should have been one of their biggest hits was poised to be one of the year's biggest turkeys.

Q: Were you in Chicago when The Dark Knight filmed there?

SCIVALLY: I'd been living there for about a year at that point. I managed to spend a day on location at Navy Pier and observed director Christopher Nolan at work, but the scenes being shot didn't involve Batman or the Joker, so I didn't see Christian Bale or Heath Ledger.

Q: Of all the actors who have played Batman, who is your favorite?

SCIVALLY: Adam West, because he's the one I saw when I was a kid, and those childhood memories always seem to be the most potent. But I think all the Batman actors were good, with each one bringing some of their own persona to the role. Even George Clooney. The film he starred in was flawed, but he certainly looked good in the Batsuit, and was a credible Bruce Wayne. And the Christopher Nolan films are just great movies, period.

Q: How do you think the more recent Batman movies compare to the Adam West series?

SCIVALLY: You really can't compare them. The Adam West series was made to appeal to small children, with some sly humor for the adults, while the Christopher Nolan films are clearly made for an adult audience, with no humor. But you can't say that one interpretation was more correct than the other; they were each appropriate for the time in which they were made.

Q: Do you feel you were in any way personally influenced by reading the Batman comics or watching the Batman TV shows and movies?

SCIVALLY: I think I was more influenced by Superman and the Lone Ranger. They were my moral compasses. Batman was just entertainment.

Q: Who were some of the people you interviewed for the Batman book?

SCIVALLY: One of the first was Michael G. Wilson, the producer of the James Bond films, whose father, Lewis Wilson, was the first live-action Batman in 1943. I also had a lengthy interview with Tom Mankiewicz, who wrote the script that eventually evolved into the Tim Burton Batman. Sad to say, Mankiewicz died before I finished the book. Then there was Lorenzo Semple Jr., who co-created and wrote most of the scripts for the 1960s TV series, and Michael Uslan, who has produced all of the Batman movies since 1989 and was the man directly responsible for bringing Batman to movie screens. I also spoke to Bob Hanks, son of Robert Lowery, who played Batman in 1949, and Deborah Dozier Potter, daughter of William Dozier, producer of the 1960s TV show. And Jane Adams, who played Vicki Vale in the 1949 serial, and Ed Begley Jr., who appeared in Batman Forever. And Sharmagne Leland-St. John gave me some good info on Douglas Croft, who was the first live-action Robin.

Q: Do you cover the animated Batman series in the book?

SCIVALLY: No. Once I began writing about the Batman animated series and feature films, I realized that if I continued, the book would balloon to the size of a Tolstoy novel. So I decided to concentrate solely on the live-action versions.

Q: Batman was created in 1939. Is he still relevant in our modern era?

SCIVALLY: Now more than ever. Batman is a very dark character, one who has psychological issues and is motivated by a deep sense of rage and injustice. And in these uncertain times, I think a lot of people feel a deep sense of rage and injustice. So he still definitely strikes a chord. I believe one of the reasons he's remained so popular is because, quite simply, he's us.

 

To see an interview with Bruce conducted by Steve Younis of the Superman Homepage at the 2008 Metropolis Superman Celebration, click HERE.

Click HERE to hear Bruce on KGO AM 810's John Rothmann Show!

In the interview below, I talk about my memories of Superman and my experiences in writing Superman On Film, Television, Radio And Broadway.

 

Q: When did you become a Superman fan?

SCIVALLY:
I remember when I was a very little kid, about three or four years old, watching Adventures of Superman on TV and being amazed at how the bullets bounced off Superman's chest. That was the George Reeves series, which at that time in Alabama was in syndication in the early mornings, right after Romper Room. A year or two later, it was off the air, and when I got a little older - about 13 or 14 - I would read about the show and Superman and the Mole Men in magazines like Famous Monsters of Filmland, and I wanted to see it again. That was before there was such a thing as videotape. So, I enlisted the aid of a few friends, and we began calling the local TV stations and asking them to put it back on. And lo and behold, one of them finally began airing it in the afternoons, right about the time kids got home from school. Around that same time, I ordered a copy of Kirk Alyn's book, A Job For Superman, from one of those magazines, and Kellogg's did a promotion where if you sent in four Corn Flakes boxtops, you could get four record albums of the Superman radio show from the 40s. So, for a couple of weeks, I was eating Corn Flakes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, midnight snacks... By the time I was in 8th grade and had to write a research paper for Mrs. Hayes's English class, I chose Superman as my topic and did kind of a mini-version of the present book. So, I guess I've always been a Superman fan.

Q: Of all the actors who have played Superman, who is your favorite?

SCIVALLY:
Because George Reeves was the first one I saw, there's a special place in my heart for his portrayal. When I was in high school, the first Christopher Reeve movie was released, and I think he did an excellent job, although at the time I thought he made Clark Kent perhaps a bit too bumbling and clumsy. Looking at the films now, I can appreciate more what he was doing with the role, and I think he really defined it. And in preparing for the book, I watched a lot of videos and DVDs of Kirk Alyn, John Haymes Newton, Gerard Christopher, Dean Cain, and Tom Welling, and I think that each of those actors gave the role a unique interpretation. Dean Cain and Tom Welling are particularly good at portraying the more tender aspects of Clark Kent's character.

Q: How do you think the more recent Superman series like Lois & Clark and Smallville compare to the George Reeves series?

SCIVALLY:
You really can't compare them. They're totally separate entities. The George Reeves show, particularly from the second season onward, was slanted more for very young children, so by its very nature it's more juvenile. And that was the very early days of television, so obviously the effects and production values are primitive by today's standards. But for what it is, it is extremely well-done and still immensely entertaining to watch, and it's amazing to me how excited I still get when he whips off his glasses and goes into that supply closet and leaps out the window, and you get that whistling wind sound effect and the harp strings and Superman fanfare on the soundtrack. Lois & Clark was geared more for an audience of young adult women, so it put a heavy emphasis on the growing romance of the two main characters, and did it extremely well. Smallville, on the other hand, is geared for teenagers, and does a great job of using Clark Kent to express what all teenagers feel - that they're outsiders and no one really understands them. I think the fact that all these TV shows and movies can approach the character from so many different perspectives just shows how robust the Superman character is.

Q: Do you feel you were in any way personally influenced by reading the Superman comics or watching the Superman TV shows and movies?

SCIVALLY:
I think I definitely benefited from growing up in a time when there were only 3 TV networks, and children's programming was filled with heroic characters like Superman, Tarzan and the Lone Ranger. All of those characters exemplified honor, integrity and fair play. And for me, truth, justice and the American way are ideals that will never go out of style.

Q: Who were some of the people you interviewed for the Superman book?

SCIVALLY:
One of the first people I spoke to was Noel Neill, who played Los Lane in the Superman serials and in the 1950s TV show, and I think she was a little surprised that I had more questions about Kirk Alyn than about George Reeves. And the last was Jack Larson, who was very generous with his time and gave me a terrific interview. In between, I interviewed Cynthia Collyer, the daughter of radio Superman Bud Collyer, and the children of Danny Dark, who was the voice of Superman on SuperFriends. And Casey Kasem gave me some great details on Danny Dark and what it was like working on the animated Superman shows. And I spoke to Peter Lupus and Denny Miller, who played Superman in Air Force recruiting commercials in the 1970s. And then I got a LOT of help from the Superman fan community and the people who run the Superman websites.

Q: 2008 will be the 70th anniversary of Superman's comic book debut. Do you think Superman is still relevant in our modern era?

SCIVALLY:
Superman is a character that has always had tremendous appeal to the downtrodden and disadvantaged. After all, he was created at the height of the Great Depression. And since we are once again living in an age where people feel threatened, downtrodden and disadvantaged, the idea of a character who can swoop in and save us remains very appealing. If anything, I think Superman is more relevant now than ever.

Q: If you could have any super power, what would it be?

SCIVALLY:
There are three ways to answer that question. The joke answer is that I'd like to have the power to make non-taxable income magically appear in my bank account. The politically correct answer is that I'd like to have the power to make world leaders compromise so we could all live in peace and harmony. But the truthful answer is that I'd love to be able to fly. Who wouldn't?