Alex Pappademas: The thing that genuinely saddens me about the era of carefully quality-controlled fan-service-calibrated superhero-movie-making/marketing is that we'll never get another "Batdance." Kitschy, shrieky, underratedly funky, thoroughly off-message in terms of the dark, brooding post–Frank Miller vision of the movie it was nominally cross-promoting, basically unconcerned with Batman and/or the Joker except as a metaphor for Prince's own desire to be two different people so he could sleep with five Kim Basinger lookalikes at once (and then blow up an electric chair), this code-black spoiler alert in the form of a housequake was as inexplicable then as it is unthinkable now. It's hard to even imagine what the contemporary equivalent would be — a Nicki Minaj Avengers song that made incoherent sample-salad of half the dialogue from Joss Whedon's script, I guess, with Nicki strutting around in the video dressed as a half-Loki/half–Iron Man sex-imp — and harder to imagine the person who signed off on it not getting fired, or institutionalized.
- Don't you kind of wish something like the above-mentioned hypothetical Nicki song existed?
- Doesn't the "Batdance" video — a purple fever dream of the Dry-Ice Capades, blocked from YouTube for some Princely reason but available in its insane entirety thanks to the scofflaws at Dailymotion — make you long for a time when the giant-summer-movie marketing machine occasionally burped out genuinely bizarre pop-cultural objects, as opposed to insurance-company commercials and Captain America-logo narc-at-the-rave hats?
- Was there ever an actual "Batdance" dance, or were you just supposed to, like, jump around the club doing air-cape moves and shouting catchphrases?
- Is this not the greatest LyricsFreak page in the history of the Internet?
- Who's gonna stop 200 balloons? (Nobody! Let's do it!)
"Batdance" came out weeks before the '89 Batman movie did, and it horrified a lot of the same Bat-purists who were worried that Tim "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" Burton would play the material for po-mo yuks. But it became Prince's first no. 1 single since "Kiss" three years earlier. America might not have known what it meant to "put the seven-inch in the computer," but we apparently suspected it was something we'd want to do. Burton's Batman ended up doing OK, and "Batdance" became a culture-transcending universal language. Seriously, click on this link, start around 4:00, and prepare to cross "FREAK THE FUCK OUT" off your to-do list for today.
Mark Lisanti: Hey, kids: If you ever doubt for a minute that you're living in the Golden Age of superhero movies, consider Condorman. In 1981, this was state-of-the-art superheroing, and I promise you that this is not a viral video cooked up by College Humor to parody the genre, this is an actual movie I saw in an actual movie theater when I was 7 years old. And I was very excited to do so. Yes, the budget was below that of a Smallville bottle episode, and yes, the special effects have been surpassed by those generated by that iPhone app where you can blow shit up from your pocket, but there was a touching purity to this chintzy garbage. Eh, who am I kidding. This stuff totally blew. I hate my stupid childhood!!!
Misfits of Science
Andy Greenwald: In October of 1985 the only comics I was reading were either in the Sunday paper (I see you, Bloom County!) or concerned themselves with the logistics of a Sadie Hawkins dance. So without proper mutants in my life, I had to settle for pale imitations. Misfits of Science was an NBC action serial about super-powered outcasts who join together for the common good, only instead of a pet dragon they had Courtney Cox. (My memory may be fuzzy, but I believe her special ability involved dancing with Bruce Springsteen.)
Anyway, the adventures of these Not Brand Echh–Men only lasted four months, and while I remember almost nothing about what they did, I have very specific memories of telling everyone in second grade that Misfits was my favorite show. And why wouldn’t it be! There was a 7-foot-tall African American dude who could shrink on command and a mulleted Poochie-type who lived fast and shot pre-CGI lightning bolts out of his fingertips. Oh, and Alf’s dad was around too. Going by the above opening credits, everyone’s real super power was having three names — which only goes to show how deep the producers had to dig in whatever the '80s version of IMDB was to come up with their cut-rate cast. (“Hmmm, Kevin Hall isn’t available. But I can get you Kevin Peter Hall! Sound good? Great. Now let’s finish this blow.”) Also, listen closely: The theme song seems to have no words other than a cut-rate Martha Wash vibrato-scatting the word “science.”
I realize I’m not selling this very well but, trust me: It was pretty awesome to an 8-year-old. It also taught me an important lesson, one I carry with me to this day: With great power comes great responsibility. And with mediocre power comes the responsibility of getting your ass off the couch and buying "The Dark Phoenix Saga" to see this stuff done right.
Whassup, Super Friends?
Mike Philbrick: I remember when this was first sent to me (so long ago that YouTube didn't even exist and I had to actually download it) that I couldn't stop laughing. Like uncontrollable, someone-should-drug-test-me laughter. So I went back to check it out thinking, "There's no way this is still that funny." I've had that doesn't-age-well comeuppance with so many other things that aren't Y2K compliant, so how could this be any different? I was wrong. This is still effing awesome.
Rembert Browne: "He's come to save the world, one neighborhood at a time.
"Robert Townsend, Marla Gibbs, Eddie Griffin, Robert Guillaume, James Earl Jones, Bill Cosby, and Another Bad Creation. Special appearances by Luther Vandross, Sinbad, Naughty by Nature, Cypress Hill, and Big Daddy Kane.
"Robert Townsend is ... Meteor Man. Directed by Robert Townsend."
This classic superhero film is dying for a reboot, starring Damon Wayans Jr. You're WELCOME, studios.
Dan Fierman: MY EYES! THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING!
"The Fantastic Four"
Bill Barnwell: When the production company that held the rights to the Fantastic Four franchise was faced with a deadline in the early '90s to use their rights and actually make a movie about the property, they were faced with a serious conundrum. Abandon the rights and any possibility of a big-money deal down the line, or make a well-budgeted film that they couldn't afford? The solution, as always, was Roger Corman. Two million dollars later, the "Fantastic Four" movie had been made with a bunch of extras and soap actors, and after being released in a cinema or two for its contractually obligated showing, the movie was shelved. It wasn't released afterward, but bootleg copies exist and you can now watch it on YouTube. Honestly, you'll make it about three minutes through the opening before giving up, but that should be enough to satisfy your curiosity. Yay, Roger Corman!
The Adventures of Pete and Pete
Tess Lynch: I never quite knew what to make of Artie, the Strongest Man in the World. A grown man in long underwear who follows a fifth-grader around doesn't necessarily scream "super" or "hero," and Artie used to make me sad. I assumed he still lived with his parents (but no! He lived in a portable house like a hipster!), cultivated iguanas, and that Little Pete would one day have to break up with his loyal sidekick by doing the slow fade. Instead, Artie was the one to conclude when his time was up in the alternate universe tri-state area of The Adventures of Pete and Pete, and his opening credit was replaced by Little Pete's friend Nona, the one with the permanent arm cast and whose dad was Iggy Pop. Pete and Pete was pretty heavy on the superhero themes — remember Big Pete vs. Endless Mike? And how Toby Huss went from playing Artie to reinventing himself as the elusive Mr. Tastee? — but this clip features William Hickey, so it has a special place in my heart. Superheroes in suburbia (even Batman — picture that latex hat with the ears getting sprayed by rotating sprinklers, the cape caught in the Starbucks Blonde Roast display) always read a little silly, and Artie was no exception. The primary trait of a superhero, besides having double-jointed wrists and spandex leggings, is the ability to make people stop and stare and say, "What the hell was that?" Artie may not have done much saving of lives, and he didn't have a cool car or the ability to fly from rooftop terrace to rooftop terrace, but he sure had "What the hell was that?" on lock.
Dan Silver: Due solely to director Guillermo del Toro’s sense of humor, dexterity as a visualist, and reverence for comic books (as well as the horror genre) does Blade II not only become one of the few sequels to exceed its predecessor, but is also a rare example of a shoddy script turning into a more-than-serviceable film by a great director (because it’s more commonly the other way around, where a great script’s being mangled by sub-par helmers). And this scene perfectly encapsulates Blade II’s perfect mixture of camp and badass-ness. The mere presence of the always-awesome Ron Perlman is the sweet touch to the melodrama of Blade dragging his failing Day Walker body into the pool of blood’s sour. I love how when the fighting starts the first couple of shots Blade lands are in sync with the beat of the European house music. And Blade’s final tagline of “Can you blush” (before slicing Perlman in half) is completely outshined by the almost Raimi-esque moment of Blade no-look catching his sunglasses and sliding them smoothly onto his face. You almost want him to say, “Groovy!” God, I love this movie.
The Secret World of Alex Mack
Katie Baker: I don't know if this qualifies, but being able to turn into liquid mercury on command seems superheroic to me. I think the biggest takeaway from this supercut of Alex Mack morphing, though, is that the show had some pretty sweet tunes.