Thursday, January 15, 2009

Batman and Robin

In the year 1997 the film "Batman & Robin", as directed by Joel Schumacher, would become part of infamy. It was a definite Summer blockbuster -- but failed to find praise from mainstream critics and fanboys alike. Batman & Robin would go down in history as the film that ended the Batman franchise of the 1990's. But more about that later...

I remember lazing about my apartment and overhearing Mary Hart (Entertainment Tonight) announcing the featured villains for this 4th installment. Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy...and Bane(?). I was ecstatic...I could not believe that Poison Ivy would be featured in a live action film. The word spread all over Hollywood like wildfire -- who would portray this villainess described as the most beautiful woman in the world? Every actress in Hollywood dared to step forward. Big names like Julia Roberts, and Demi Moore were being tossed about. Honestly...this turned my stomach. The idea of somebody like Roberts, or Moore as Poison Ivy did not sit well with me. But I still didn't have a person in mind. Until...

It just hit me -- Uma Thurman! Perfect! But what were the odds of this happening? It seemed Impossible. Uma certainly made a name for herself in the film "Pulp Fiction" (1994) but her resume consisted of smaller, intimate films -- certainly no blockbusters. So, you can imagine the utter shock of hearing that Uma Thurman was asked to fill the role of Poison Ivy. What!? I am still convinced there were cosmic forces at work that allowed me to will this all into being (or so I keep telling myself). My reasons for wanting Uma are simple -- she has a unique beauty, otherworldy even. But more importantly, she was the kind of actress who was cast for her skills and not just her bankable name.

Speaking of bankable names...

George Clooney was chosen as Batman, and a horribly miscast Arnold Schwarzenegger would become Mr. Freeze. Chris O'Donnel would return as Robin, and the role of Batgirl was given to Alicia Silverstone (ugh!).

The production of this film was followed closely and the internet played a crucial role in keeping fans informed of each step towards completion. The negative vibe directed at this film began early on -- once the script was leaked to the web many questions were raised and eyes began to roll. The trailer for the film premiered on Entertainment Tonight and fan reaction was heavily mixed. We saw a swaggering Batman, a clunking ill spoken Mr. Freeze, the same old Robin, a vacant Batgirl, a slinking Poison Ivy...and a person resembling Bane.

I scored some free tickets and was able to attend a sneek peek screening of "Batman & Robin". There I was in line -- with my Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy t-shirt (from the now defunct WB Studio Stores) surrounded by hundreds of eager movie goers. I was excited...critics be damned. I was treated to 125 minutes of color and sound...and Ivy too. I did enjoy the film, but not as much as I thought I would. I tried not to be overly critical but there were so many awkward moments in the film...and I still feel the same way. I love Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy...but the rest of the film is a mess.

I think fans of the superhero genre should also keep in mind that comic book based films in the 90s were not treated with the reverence that they are today. Clearly this film could in no way compete with the likes of say X-Men: United, Iron-Man, or The Dark Knight. But the new millennium is not without a few clunkers i.e. Catwoman, Elektra, and Ghost Rider to name a few.

Also, it's clear that Uma Thurman is capable of portraying an adventurous woman. The Kill Bill films were fantastic. But a weak script and cartoonish visuals soured this opportunity.

One of the good things to come from Batman and Robin is Poison Ivy was introduced to the world in the form of Uma Thurman. It sparked a wild curiosity -- once Batman and Robin hit, the traffic to my Poison Ivy website was never ending. People wanted to know more about this sexy villainess. Also, the costuming was great -- fabulous plant-themed costumes and to-die-for wigs.

Though I must say...any person who has followed Uma Thurman's career since Batman and Robin has probably noticed she NEVER talks about her role as Poison Ivy. (I'm sure she's aware that the film was widely panned and is protecting her own brand.) It's likely that Batman and Robin goes on the list of topics you simply cannot discuss during an interview.

Shortly after Batman and Robin she starred in another Warner Bros. film titled "The Avengers" (1998) based off of the old British show of the same name. It sank at the box office. This had to be a rather frustrating time for an actress attempting to branch out into different film genres.

All things considered, it's unfortunate that Uma doesn't perceive her portrayal of Poison Ivy as something to be remembered with fondness (or amusement). In many ways she really was the highlight of an otherwise "difficult" film.

"That's right, the same plants and flowers that saw you crawl from the primordial soup will reclaim the planet. And there will be no-one to protect you."

Monday, January 5, 2009

Poison Ivy : Origin Two

"Pamela Isley grew up in Seattle, the only child of well-to-do parents who pampered their daughter and indulged her every whim. A cute girl, Pamela was, sadly, emotionally unstable and entirely too critical of her appearance; consequently, she spent most of her adolescence alone and apart from other children. Deciding that if nobody was going to bring her roses she would just grow her own, Pamela became more and more interested in botany, finding solace in the plants and flowers that always listened to her and depended on her.

Pamela went to college and studied botany under Jason Woodrue, a brilliant scientist. (Years later, Woodrue would become the plant master known as Floronic Man, and even later, Floro of the New Guardians.) Woodrue performed his earliest experiments on Pamela, experiments that actually mutated her into not being quite human, one with an unnatural affinity for and power over plant life. Woodrue eventually left Seattle, but by that time, Pamela had found another love -- the Batman, whom she worshipped, idolized, and fantasized about. With her precarious emotional outlook, she became convinced that Batman, too, would fall instantly in love with her should the two of them ever meet face to face. So, using the plant mastery she had gained under Woodrue, and adopting the nom de guerre Poison Ivy, Pamela traveled to Gotham City and began a one-woman crime wave guaranteed to capture the Dark Knight's attention.

The Batman, who generally devotes himself to his war on crime rather than romantic pursuits, spurned Pamela's affections, and she was eventually imprisoned at Arkham Asylum for futher psychiatric evaluation. But the power she had tasted as Poison Ivy thrilled Pamela. For the first time in her life, she was able to control others with the power at her command, to manipulate men with her beauty and raw sexuality. Breaking out of Arkham, she decided to continue her criminal career and matched wits with Batman repeatedly, forever being put back behind bars and yet always able to coerce some young, virile guard into looking the other way, while she escaped once more.

As Poison Ivy, Pamela is, first and foremost, a manipulator. Her emotions are mercurial, and she is affectionate and trustworthy only to serve her own ends. Her only real vulnerability is her dependence on the power over men that she so loves to wield. She is as cold toward women as she is passionate about men." ~ DC Comics, Who's Who, Mark Waid

Neil Gaiman introduced this new provocative origin in "Secret Origins #36, Jan 89". The story is titled "Pavane", and is told from the perspectives of Pamela Isley (locked away in a Gotham City prison) and a curious Inspector Stuart. As the story unfolds, Pamela Isley begins to tell of her experience -- thus creating her new origin and at the same time doing away with the many inconsistencies of her documented past. One of the more memorable aspects of this piece is that we, as readers, are allowed a first glimpse into the mercurial nature of Pamela Isley. One moment she is sweet as a rose, and the next -- she is poison. Pavane ends with Inspector Stuart completing his diagnosis of Pamela Isley -- the words "Arkham Asylum" are scribbled across a note pad. The security monitor displays a horrified and screaming Pamela Isley reaching out towards the security camera begging for her freedom.

This recharacterization allowed Poison Ivy to move forward from her campy second string status. She was once considered a celebrity villain with a sincere yet laughable motivation. Ivy is now a one woman force of nature, filled with passion, power, and rage...and dare I say it -- a soul. I strongly urge all Poison Ivy fans to track down a copy of this comic book. The artwork is lacking in certain aspects (mainly from aged paper), but the story is a significant turning point in the life of the Pamela Isley we know today.

Although the two origins of Poison Ivy have their differences -- they also have some key similarities. Both origins remain true to the idea that the woman who became Poison Ivy was ultimately betrayed by a man. That betrayal significantly altered her biochemistry to the point of death. But, she did not suffer a mortal death -- what died is her ability to remain entirely human.

Poison Ivy: Origin One

"Born in Seattle, Washington, of a wealthy family, Pamela Lillian Isley (her full correct name, despite some confusion in print) was early attracted to botany, which became her major at college. Her professor, a frenchman named Marc LeGrand, romanced her, convincing her of his intention to marry her-as soon as he had enough money. He told her he might be able to make a fortune with a discovery based on an urn containing ancient Egyptian herbs. But only burglary could get it from the museum. Pamela was brilliant enough to do just that. What she didn't know was that the herbs were a deadly untraceable poison, and he slipped a bit into her drink when they toasted their future. He thought he was rid of the one person who knew of his part in the theft. He was wrong. Somehow, Pamela's system resisted the poison and assimilated it, making her immune to all poisons. She then took on the identity of Poison Ivy, from her interest in plants, her immunity to poison, and her initials. She has since committed a series of crimes so brilliant she was never even suspected."

The fore mentioned origin is the first interpretation of how Poison Ivy may have become the now infamous Batman villain. This origin was touched on in an issue of Dollar Comics -- World's Finest # 252, in the year 1978 (Gerry Conway - writer). But, it appears that little thought was put into how this contrived and hollow origin would stand the test of time because it was later dismissed.

Incidentally, Poison Ivy was given the civilian name of Lillian Rose through out this story and there was no mention of the name Pamela Isley. This affirms my belief that the character development of Poison Ivy, at this time, was so weak that any histories pertaining to her alter ego were all but absent. Details were penciled in without any serious consideration.

In the story containing this origin a defeated Wonder Woman discovered that the character Redwood (one of Poison Ivy's henchmen) was actually a spellbound Marc LeGrand. Though his outward appearance now resembled that of an actual tree. Wonder Woman was able to contact the true nature of Marc LeGrand by repeating his name and after he realized his mutated state was an act of revenge from the twisted mind of his former flame -- he turned against Poison Ivy.

The final panels in this story show both Redwood (LeGrand) and Poison Ivy falling over a cliff -- plunging into the watery depths below and left for dead. The final thoughts in this story are from the amazing amazon, Wonder Woman...

"In the end they've both repaid their seperate betrayls! It's not what I intended...but it was they have peace together...the long final peace...of the grave."

That sentiment makes me wonder if DC Comics ever intended to use the character of Poison Ivy beyond this storyline. Regardless, a certain supervillainess with a fixation for all things green appears to have had the last laugh.

"Beware of Poison Ivy!" : Batman #181 and Forward

Poison Ivy was introduced to the Batman mythos in the year 1966 in a story titled "Beware of Poison Ivy!" (Batman #181). Credit for her creation must be given to various participants. Robert Kanigher wrote the story "Beware of Poison Ivy!" and Carmine Infantino provided the artwork. Robert Kanigher (1915-2002) wrote stories for various DC titles including Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Batman. Carmine Infantino is the artist responsible for bringing DC Comics back to life during the mid 1950's. Infantino's dynamic covers and interiors ushered in a new era for the superhero -- it was the beginning of the Silver Age. Infantino was not only an artist but also aided in the co-creation of characters such as Elongated Man and The Flash. I am not completely certain about the role Bob Kane played in this history. It is claimed that Bob Kane and Sheldon Moldoff co-created Poison Ivy before passing her off to other artists and writers.

To this day I suspect the late 1950s song "Poison Ivy" was also a source of inspiration. (How could it not be?)

"Batman meets a luscious nemesis -- the unique villainess -- the irresistible Poison Ivy! Her charms so contagious that they trap him at every turn! Can Robin the Boy Wonder save his idol from a fate far worse than death -- which the once invincible Masked Marvel embraces every change he gets? No -- anymore than our warning will stop you from being infected by the sensation - surprises of: Beware of -- Poison Ivy!"

That quote is lifted from the very first page to ever feature Poison Ivy -- and it is telling of the role Ivy would play in the life of the Batman. Villain, seductress, and foil.

The story "Beware of -- Poison Ivy!" is an amusing one. It is light in theme and heavy on camp. Poison Ivy arrives in Gotham City and begins her plot to become "Queen of Crime". But to claim that crown she must first dispose of her rivals Dragon Fly, Silken Spider, and Tiger Moth. (Catwoman was strangely absent.) During this coup Ivy's lustful eyes spy a certain Bruce Wayne and then a Batman. So began her one-sided love affair with the Dark Knight.

The earliest depictions of Poison Ivy seem almost silly compared to her modern day counterpart. She was portrayed as a wanton and vain fame addict with a touch of the crazies. She was lacking in any true type of meta ability -- she relied mainly on quirky weapons like exploding strands of hair and scaling ivy.

Over a timespan of 40+ years, the story of Poison Ivy would change dramatically. She would move from the second and third tier ranks (shared by the likes of Mad Hatter, and the Ventriloquest) to the frontline of the rogues gallery. Her ultra-femininity, uniqueness, and sex appeal allowed for story lines you could not otherwise do (not even with Catwoman). Ivy reached beyond the pages of the bat books and was seen joining ranks with the Secret Society of Supervillains, The Injustice Gang, and the Suicide Squad. Ivy has tangled with many DC Comics heavyweights including Batman, Wonder Woman and even Superman. She has also permanently altered (if not destroyed) the lives of fellow villains like Clayface and the Riddler.

The motivations of Ivy are still up for debate. At first, it appeared like she didn't have focus beyond bedding the Batman. Then after the lust came the desire for notoriety and riches. Years would pass before Poison Ivy became associated with being a protectress of plant-kind and a vengeful eco-terrorist. But that aspect of her persona, while noble, went nowhere storywise (Detective Comics #693). The Ivy of today appears to be a better combination of all these things and more. She is equal parts beauty and danger. In recent times fans have also experienced a thoughtful Poison Ivy. She has found seclusion in the forests of Robinson Park, but has opened up her domain to the forgotten children of Gotham City. An endearing concept.

The personality and powers of Poison Ivy were made over (discussed in other sections of this site) but the most dramatic change has been to her appearance. There is still a Silver Age aesthetic to her costuming -- but the Modern Age Ivy has a style and elegance that was lacking in her vintage counterpart. The bobbed and wreathed hairstyle has given way to lengthy coils of hair adorned with leaves throughout. The one-piece is still there but has been streamlined and the ornamental touches are now seen as trailing vines going up her arms and legs. The pale green tights? Apparently gone (for now). The ankle boots? Optional. Ivy is often seen these days without footwear of any kind.

Of course, the most controversial aspect of her evolution is the green skin. This green skinned beauty first revealed herself in the three part story "Fruit of the Earth" (Batman: Shadow of the Bat #88). No explanation was given -- one day she was just green. A few rumors and theories were tossed around the internet. I have heard that the artist for this particular book was mistakenly handed references from the The New Batman Adventures (that Ivy turned green too). Some have concluded that when Catwoman smashed a vial of "super fertilizer" against Ivy's face (Catwoman #57) -- she began to mutate. I suppose we are left to make up our own minds. I have reduced it to the evolution of a plant/human hybrid.

And that folks, is the story of Poison Ivy (so far). She is wicked, glamorous, and fabulous -- a true one of a kind.

I have done my best at providing detailed statistics, and origins for the comic book Poison Ivy. I've included brief bios on a few other plant based characters who have had a lasting influence in the DC Universe. Here you will find content and images that are quite memorable, and portray Poison Ivy in various lights -- from drop dead gorgeous to a more rageous, vengeful menace. The animated, and cinematic variations of Poison Ivy are divine, but the comic book Poison Ivy is the heart of this website.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


I have faint memories of being a child, parked in front of the television, and getting starry-eyed everytime Lynda Carter would twirl and become Wonder Woman. That show is what sparked this hobby of mine -- this undying interest in comic book collecting. I don't remember comic book shops existing back then...but I do remember quaint spinner racks located in the back section of our local newsstand. Each slot filled with the colorful heroes and villains of DC Comics (and Marvel too). My little fingers would flip through those racks seeking out whatever caught my eye. The Justice League, X-Men, Wonder Woman, Teen Titans...and yes, even Marvel's old school Dazzler.

I knew of the super-men...but I was always drawn to the super-women of these fantasy worlds. They were exciting to me -- so strong, yet vulnerable, beautiful and smart. Also let's face it, they had the better costumes. Eventually, I became restless with Wonder Woman...she was simply too much of a do-gooder for my changing tastes. In fact, my entire interest in comic books vanished during my early teen years. But, like many I found my way back. I lay that blame on Catwoman in Batman Returns -- watching Michelle Pfeiffer whip her way through Gotham City was big fun. I felt that same sense of excitement and wonder as I did during my Lynda Carter years...and I have been celebrating this comic book culture ever since.

So, about that plant lady...

I discovered Poison Ivy while watching Batman: The Animated Series -- plain and simple. (It horrifies me to realize that was 17 years ago!) I was actually quite surprised that I never knew of this character before her animated debut. I really liked her style. It was bold, and colorful -- a woman dressed in all green! With fiery red hair, and a personality to match. I also found the plant motifs to be fascinating and original. Of course, this discovery prompted me to the back issues of many a comic book store -- buying up every book featuring Poison Ivy. I soon realized this character didn't quite hit her stride until about ten or so years ago. Those earlier appearances are few and far between for Poison Ivy.

This Ivy fixation exploded upon hearing that Poison Ivy would be a featured villain in the fourth Batman film. I couldn't believe that my favorite villain was going to portrayed by one of my favorite actresses. (Uma Thurman) Around the time I realized what a useful tool the internet was for finding out information about...well...anything really. So I went online to do research about Poison Ivy -- looking for any type of site that would offer up pictures and information beyond the paper comic book format. I looked for online communities or fan clubs. Much to my dismay there was little or nothing to be found. any crazed and motivated person...I decided to build my own website -- that's when "The Flora Lounge" was born.

I knew nothing of web design -- so I just browsed through online tutorials, books and whatever else would teach me how to build a basic website. Eventually, the site took shape. I bought a scanner and uploaded whatever images I felt were worth posting. It's funny, I look at The Flora Lounge now and it's so garish in color and amateurish in design and function (a 640x480 template!?) -- even the name makes me wince and blush. But, it served a purpose and was received positively by passersby. I've met lots of very nice and very cool people (because of that site). All crazy Poison Ivy fans just like me. You all know who you are! I've been at this for 12 years and I've loved every second.

As of this writing, the Lounge is retired (it's simply too old) to make way for my newer vision -- my new pet project, DEADLY GARDEN! I chose the name based on a chapter title I read in Batman: Shadow of the Bat Annual # 3. The 4th chapter is titled, "The Deadly Garden of Poison Ivy" -- I liked the sound of the words Deadly and Garden together and the ideas and images they conjure. And that was the first step towards a new and better direction. I consider this new site/blog the more mature and sophisticated version of my former effort.

All of my knowledge and all of my passion for this character can be found here. You found your way to this site -- so chances are she is just as important to you too. The May Queen...Earth Goddess...Plant Mistress...Vine Vixen...and true Queen of Gotham City -- Pamela Isley, better known as Poison Ivy! My gift to you.

POISON IVY, and all related characters, names, and indicia are trademarks of DC Comics. This website/blog is non-profit, and intended for entertainment, and informative purposes only.

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