Paul De Meo, writer-producer, dies

Mark Hamill and John Wesley Shipp from a publicity still for the 1990 Flash TV series

Paul De Meo, a writer-producer who developed the 1990 television series The Flash, has died.

His death was announced on Twitter on Feb. 26 by his partner, Danny Bilson. There were few details immediately available.

The duo also scripted a 1991 movie, The Rocketeer, based on a graphic novel by Dave Stevens. The movie featured an Errol Flynn-like actor, played by Timothy Dalton, who is really a Nazi spy.

De Meo and Bilson were also wrote (with Bruce Feirstein) the  James Bond video game Everything Or Nothing. They also wrote the 007: Nightfire video game.

With The Flash, De Meo and Bilson wrote the two-hour pilot TV movie and were executive producers of the series that starred John Wesley Shipp.

There were influences from the 1989 Batman movie directed by Tim Burton. That film’s composer, Danny Elfman scored the pilot for The Flash and provided its theme music. Also, the pilot adapted a meme from Burton’s film.

In Batman, the Bat Plane flies above Gotham City and stops in front of the moon, mimicking the Bat insignia on Batman’s uniform. In The Flash pilot, the camera moves above Central City. A lightning bolt comes down in front of the moon, mimicking the symbol on The Flash’s costume.

The resulting series included casting Mark Hamill and David Cassidy as villains (the Trickster and the Mirror Master, respectively). For Hamill, it was the start of a new side career playing bad guys, including voicing the Joker on Batman cartoons starting in 1992.

The show, which aired on CBS, was one of the most expensive on television at the time, in part because of its special effects. It was canceled after one season.

Below are the tweets that Danny Bilson and John Wesley Shipp posted about De Meo’s passing.

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The Guardian’s daft 007 proposal

Carmine Infantino's cover to Flash No. 123, "The Flash of Two Worlds."

The Guardian’s proposal for alternate-universe 007s sounds a lot like “The Flash of Two Worlds” story published by DC Comics in 1961.

The Guardian has come out with a story in effect saying don’t choose between Tom Hiddleston and Idris Elba as the next James Bond but do movies with both — at the same time.

The British newspaper cited how, “We are, after all, living in the era of Marvel’s highly successful expanded universe of interconnected movie and TV superhero stories. Star Wars’ take on the concept is moving forward apace, and Warner Bros has 10 films based on the DC Comics back catalogue planned between now and 2020.”

That sets up the meat of the proposal:

But Bond is just as big as any of the above, and right now seems even more suited to being split into multiple strands. Elba fans reckon the Hackney-born Londoner would make the perfect 21st-century 007, while Hiddlestonians see their Eton-educated man as the epitome of traditional Flemingesque toff sophistication. So why not take the opportunity presented by Craig’s mooted departure and give both versions screen time?

Here are two reasons why the Guardian’s idea is daft.

–Expanded universes and multiple/alternate universes are not the same thing.

To use Marvel as an example, the Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man co-exists in the same fictional universe as Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Chris Evans’ Captain America. The characters have been featured in separate films and have also been in movies together. That’s what Warner Bros. is moving toward with the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie that opens this week.

What The Guardian is calling for are movies featuring alternate universe versions of Bond. Eon Productions opened the door to this concept when it rebooted the 007 series ten years ago with Casino Royale. The production company decided to start over, but kept the popular Judi Dench as M, with the explanation that Dench is playing a different version of the character than she did previously.

The Guardian is calling for an Elba 007 set in the present time and a Hiddleston Bond set in the time of the original Ian Fleming novels. Unless the two Bonds suddenly develop super powers, like the two versions of DC Comics’ The Flash, the two Bonds can never meet because they’re in separate universes.

Still, some fans might be intrigued with watching alternate takes. So let’s look at the second reason.

–Eon has trouble enough producing one James Bond movie every three years. Do you really expect it to produce, in effect, two series at once?

Michael G. Wilson, Eon’s co-boss, has talked since at least 1999 about how exhausting it is to make Bond movies. Barbara Broccoli, the other co-boss, told the Los Angeles Times in November 2012 that she didn’t want to hurry future 007 installments.

“Sometimes there are external pressures from a studio who want you to make it in a certain time frame or for their own benefit, and sometimes we’ve given into that,” Broccoli said. “But following what we hope will be a tremendous success with ‘Skyfall,’ we have to try to keep the deadlines within our own time limits and not cave in to external pressures.”

Also, even with a three-year gap between Skyfall and 2015’s SPECTRE, the scripting process was chaotic. So imagine that situation squared as Eon produced twin Bond series. And that doesn’t take into consideration other ideas put forth by The Guardian, including a Netflix series (similar to the Netflix shows featuring other Marvel characters) featuring Moneypenny.

Finally, on top of all that, Broccoli and Wilson are interested in various non-Bond projects. In that respect, they’re more like Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman than they are the other co-found Albert R. Broccoli, who never did a non-Bond film after 1968.

‘Mr. Warner’ and creator credits

Sam Rolfe, circa 1964

Sam Rolfe, circa 1964

Fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series, for the most part, weren’t happy to see that Sam Rolfe — the major creator of the 1964-68 television series — didn’t get a credit with the movie that debuted this month.

Rolfe (1924-1993) created Illya Kuryakin, Alexander Waverly as well as the U.N.C.L.E. organization and format. The main element he didn’t create was Napoleon Solo, which had been hashed out by executive producer Norman Felton and 007 author Ian Fleming.

Felton (1913-2012) did receive an “executive consultant” credit in the U.N.C.L.E. film.

The series didn’t carry a formal creator credit. Instead it was either, “Developed by Sam Rolfe” or “The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Developed by Sam Rolfe,” depending on the season of the show.

While Rolfe not getting a mention is understandably disappointing, Warner Bros., aka “Mr. Warner” on this blog has an interesting history.

In the early days of Warner Bros. television, the real-life Mr. Warner (Jack) had an aversion to bestowing a creator credit. Roy Huggins didn’t get a creator credit for either Maverick or 77 Sunset Strip. Charles Larson (the person who most likely deserved one) didn’t get a creator credit for The FBI, a co-production with Quinn Martin. On the other hand, When Maverick became a Warner Bros. movie in 1994, Huggins did get on-screen recognition.

Warner Bros. also controls DC Comics. The studio gives credit for movies based on DC characters where it has an obligation. Superman movies, for example, have a creator credit for Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster. Warner and DC only agreed to that in the 1970s as the first Superman film with Christopher Reeve was being prepared and there was a big public relations campaign for Siegel and Schuster.

Warners also gives Bob Kane the creator credit for Batman, although there’s evidence that uncredited Bill Finger really did the heavy lifting. In 2014, cartoonist Ty Templeton drew what a Batman without Bill Finger would look like. Anyway, Warners/DC also credits Charles Moulton (real name William Moulton Marston) for Wonder Woman.

Other than that, though, no creator credits. The 2011 Green Lantern, for example, movie didn’t credit John Broome and Gil Kane. The current Flash television series doesn’t credit Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino.

Put another way, Sam Rolfe — who wrote the U.N.C.L.E. pilot and produced the show’s first season — has plenty of company. Also that “developed by” credit probably gives the studio legal leeway in not including Rolfe in the movie’s credits.

Carmine Infantino, notable comic book artist, dies

Carmine Infantino's cover to Flash No. 123, "The Flash of Two Worlds."

Carmine Infantino’s cover to Flash No. 123, “The Flash of Two Worlds.”

Carmine Infantino, one of DC Comics’ main artists during the Silver Age, died the other day at the age of 87. He helped popularize a concept that the makers of James Bond movies would use when rebooting the franchise in 2006.

Infantino, as noted in AN OBITUARY IN THE NEW YORK TIMES, was assigned to work in a revamp of the Flash in 1956. Instead of bringing back the original Flash character, DC started over with a different character in a new costume.

Infantino, according to various accounts, would draw potential covers and show them to editor Julius Schwartz (1915-2004) — in effect daring the editor to devise a story line to match the drawing. In 1961, five years after the new Flash debuted, Infantino showed Schwartz a drawing of the new and old Flashes racing to save the same person.

That became the basis of a story embracing the concept of alternate universes. Flash No. 123 wasn’t the origin of the idea but it helped popularize it and DC would soon use the notion to bring back old versions of other characters. As we’ve written before,, Eon Productions adapted the idea when it decided to start the series over with 2006’s Casino Royale while retaining the services of popular actress Judi Dench as M. Dame Judi simply played a different M than the one she portrayed before.

Carmine Infantino's cover to Detective Comics No. 327 in 1964, which introduced the "New Look" Batman

Carmine Infantino’s cover to Detective Comics No. 327 in 1964, which introduced the “New Look” Batman


Also, as noted in the New York Times obituary, Infantino was assigned to draw Batman in 1964 when DC, facing falling sales, decided to revamp the character. Infantino’s Batman was more realistic at least compared with versions published up until that time.

Here’s how it was described in the Times’ obituary:

In 1964, Mr. Infantino and the writer John Broome were asked to work similar magic on Batman. In Mr. Infantino’s hands, Batman took on an urbane, Bondian aspect. This “new look” Batman, as he was known to the trade, inspired the ABC television series starring Adam West and originally broadcast from 1966 to 1968. (emphasis added)

Infantino later became a DC Comics executive before leaving the company while continuing to draw for other publishers.

The M of two worlds

Judi Dench as M -- or one of them.

Judi Dench as M — or one of them.

For the past seven years, there’s been a recurring debate: If the 007 film series started all over with Casino Royale, how can Judi Dench’s M still be around?

One possible answer is this: The Bond movies starting with Casino comprise a separate fictional universe from the other 007 films. The Judi Dench M of 1995-2002 (the Pierce Brosnan films) is different than the Judi Dench M of 2006-2012 (Daniel Craig’s first three films). They just look remarkably alike and are obviously played by the same actress.

Recently, the ComingSoon.net Web site had AN ARTICLE ABOUT SKYFALL’S PROPS. There was this excerpt:

As we looked at the porcelain bulldog M bequeaths Bond, the archive assistant read the inscription on the box it is presented to him in – “Olivia Mansfield bequeaths James Bond.” We’ve searched around, and as far as we can see this is the first and only time anyone’s ever revealed M’s ‘real name.’ It may not have been spoken, but if you were watching on a big enough screen it could have been visible, so we’d argue it’s now canon.

Earlier, during the Brosnan era, the Dench M was incorporated into Raymond Benson’s 007 continuation novels. One of them name gave her the name Barbara Mawdsley. That’s certainly not canon for the film series (which avoids Bond continuation novels like the plague). But it has been adopted by some fans.

What’s more, as many fans have noted, the two Ms seem to have different backgrounds. The Brosnan era M had been promoted from the analysis section and, in GoldenEye, said Bond was a relic of the Cold War. The Craig era M yearns for a return to the simplicity of the Cold War. Also, she’s rather adept at helping Bond prepare booby traps at Skyfall Lodge, skill sets she learned somewhere besides the analysis section. Not conclusive by any means, but all of that can be cited in making the case the characters are different.

The concept of different universes is hardly new and predates the Bond film series. It was a staple of science fiction and comic books.

DC Comics embraced the idea in 1961 with “The Flash of Two Worlds.”

The cover to Flash No. 123, "The Flash of Two Worlds."

The cover to Flash No. 123, “The Flash of Two Worlds.”


Five years earlier, DC had come out with a new version of the Flash, a hero who could move at super-speed. Instead of simply reviving the original Flash, DC came out with a different character with a different costume. The new Flash became popular and DC proceeded to produce new version of other Golden Age characters such as Green Lantern, the Atom and Hawkman.

The 1961 story has the two Flashes meeting when the new Flash manages to cross into the universe of the original character. (CLICK HERE to read more details.) This, too, was a hit with readers and DC further expanded on the alternate universe concept.

Now some fans say this is ridiculous, science fiction concepts have no place in the Bond films. To each their own. You could also argue the 2006 reboot would have been cleaner had M simply been recast at that time. But Judi Dench was popular and, with a new Bond, Eon opted to keep her even as characters such as Miss Moneypenny and Q were absent from Casino.

It was certainly understandable from a marketing perspective, if nothing else. So perhaps it really is, “The M of Two Worlds.”