Author: Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger is best known to comics fans as the editor of Who's Who In The DC Universe, Suicide Squad, and Doom Patrol. He's written and edited several Star Trek novels and is the author of The Essential Batman Encyclopedia. He's known for his work as an editor for Comics Scene, Starlog, and Weekly World News, as well as holding executive positions at both Marvel Comics and DC Comics.
REVIEW: No Hard Feelings

REVIEW: No Hard Feelings

Let’s get this out of the way. Yes, Jennifer Lawrence is fully, frontally, nude for a few minutes of this rom-com. It’s in character and far from salacious, merely adding to the humor and delineating her character.

That said, the R-rated rom-com No Hard Feelings out now from Sony Home Entertainment, is disappointingly predictable, using the nudity to break the typical pattern, adding little to the genre, which needs some fresh life.

Lawrence’s Maddie Barker is in dire need of a new car after the one she used for her Uber gig got repossessed to pay tax debts. She’s 32, barely hanging on, and in need of a lifeline.

Said lifeline comes in the form of the Beckers (Laura Benanti and Matthew Broderick) who want their son Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman) to gain some confidence and maybe some sexual experience before heading off to Princeton in the fall.

While twice the kid’s age, she agrees and they meet and things don’t go well until they do. The end.

There are some themes here, mostly about taking control of one’s destiny, being true to one’s self, and the endurance of true friendship. Lawrence’s Maddie has to address the nearly generational gap between her and her charge and it shows she needs to accept adulthood. But, the comedy isn’t very fresh and the circumstances feel contrived by the numbers, so the script from John Phillips and Gene Stupnitsky, who also directed, needed work. Lawrence is a producer here and if she is to be believed, had a blast making this film, which is certainly a change of pace from her more recent work.

Lawrence is rarely bad on film and gives it her best here, making the most of soft material. She and Feldman, best known for Broadway’s Catch me if You Can, are fine together but it just doesn’t work as well as it could have. They get fine supporting performances but again, from people who have given stronger performances elsewhere.

The movie, out only on Blu-ray and Digital HD, seems fine in its 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer.  The daytime and nighttime sequences are equally clear with good color. It pairs well with the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. Neither is top of the line but perfectly serves this film.

There are a handful of Special Features, none particularly special. We have A Little Wrong: Making No Hard Feelings (6:00), A Motley Crew: Meet the Characters (7:00); and Outtakes & Bloopers (4:00).

REVIEW: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 30th Anniversary Edition

REVIEW: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 30th Anniversary Edition

To many, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm stands are one of the best Batman stories in filmed media and even one of the best stories all time. With its 30th anniversary now here, Warner Home Entertainment gives you a chance to see for yourself. Out now in 4k Ultra HD for the first time, the movie stands up quite well.

When it arrived in late 1993, critics hailed it but did disappointing box office and it has subsequently gone on to gain stature as it has been available in multiple packages ever since. Written by Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Martin Pasko, and Michael Reaves, one would think many hands might spoil the tale, but instead, all four revered the Caped Crusader and honored him with an all-original story.

New to the mythos is Andrea Beaumont (Dana Delany), who also lost her parents to violence. There’s a spark between them, but Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) is in his early days as the Dark Knight and has little time for romance. We jump ahead 10 years and now the Phantasm is going after the same cowardly lot of criminals as Batman, but he kills rather than apprehends, setting up a showdown.

There’s some mistaken identity as people think Batman is Phantasm with Councilman Arthur Reeves (Hart Bochner)  vowing to bring Batman down. Complicating matters is the Joker (Mark Hamill) until all the players come together for the final confrontation when Phantasm’s identity is revealed (not that it’s that much of a surprise).

The story has heart and soul with plenty of doses of action. It moves along swiftly in its 78 minutes. [Yes, it does have echoes of Mike W. Barr’s Batman Year Two, but that’s a discussion for another time.] Pasko’s flashback sequences, including that immortal line “I Didn’t count on being happy,” give the film some emotional weight that many of its companion features lack.

According to Warner, “The 4K HDR remaster of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was sourced from the 1993 original cut camera negative and was scanned at 4K resolution. Digital restoration was applied to the 4K scans to remove dirt, scratches, and additional anomalies, but special care was given to not touch the film grain or the animation cel dirt that was part of the original artwork. This is the first time since its theatrical release that it is presented in its 1.85 aspect ratio.”

The 2160p version is quite good and looks fabulous, a cut above the current Blu-ray version. It’s clear, colorful, and detailed. The original 2.0 mix is here along with the superior brand-new 5.1 remix.

For a 30th anniversary salute, I expected more than one new feature, no matter how good it is. Kevin Conroy: I Am The Knight (26:08) gets the tribute the animated voice of the Batman deserves. After over 400 animated appearances (plus a guest role on the CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths), he has become as synonymous with the hero as his creators and live-action actors. This is not included on the Digital HD copy.

REVIEW: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

REVIEW: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

As I tell my students, choices have consequences. Brilliantly, several choices made by Mikles Morales and his friends come back to bite them in the ass in the wonderful, if bloated, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

Out now from Sony Home Entertainment, the 2:20 film is merely part one of a more sprawling saga that is entirely built around Miles (Shameik Moore) making a decision in the previous film that has multiversal implications.

In fact, his repercussions have such omniversal impact that Spider-Man 2099 (Oscar Isaac) has formed the Spider-Society with its core members traversing the multiverse to repair the damage (with a wonderful throwaway line about Doctor Strange).

Miles is blissfully unaware of this until another of his actions appears in the form of a new foe, the Spot (Jason Schwartzman), who is seen mastering his powers with growing confidence until he makes a mistake and enters himself and, therefore, the multiverse.

We see not only Miles’ anguish for the above events but also for keeping his secret from his loving parents, Jeff (Brian Tyree Henry) and Rio (Luna Lauren Velez), and his seeming estrangement from his crush Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld). When he finds himself in Pavitr Prabhakar (Karan Soni)/Spider-Man India’s reality, he saves Pavitr’s father, Police Inspector Singh, which is considered a canon event. Each Spider-Man, we’re told, must suffer such losses; it’s their curse. To preserve that, Spidey 2099 has decided that Miles is the original anomaly that needs to be contained permanently, which would also mean Lt. Morales was destined to die in two days.

There are many wonderful emotional scenes between Miles and his parents or with Gwen or with the elder Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson) that give the film greater depth than you would imagine.

Visually, it’s a stunning accomplishment, growing from the previous Into the Spider-Verse with visual styles that match each world and its inhabitants. Live-action footage is nicely woven in just enough to feel organic.

Throughout the film, there are wonderful homages to the comics that spawned so many of these iterations, along with elements from the animated television series and feature films. It’s an Easter Egg hunter’s smorgasbord.

My problem is that many of the sequences are overly long, extending the action and cutting the dramatic tension. The film could have lost 20 minutes and been tighter and more satisfying. Stil, kudos to writers Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and Dave Callaham, along with the directorial trio of Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson.

The film was reviewed via streaming, and the 2180p high definition looks wonderful. The sound mixing issues that plagued the early theatrical release are absent here, with a fine Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track that sounds strong on home equipment.

There is a plentiful assortment of special features including an audio commentary (not available for streaming; Creating the Ultimate Spider-Man Movie (14:49); Obscure Spiders Easter Eggs (5:39); “Imma do my own Thing” Interdimensional Destiny (8:26); Across the Worlds: Designing New Dimensions (7:00); Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Cast (13:00); Designing Spiders and Spots (12:00); Raising a Hero (8:00); Scratches, Score and the Music of the Multiverse (5:00); Across the Comic-Verse (8:00); Escape from Spider-Society (8:00); Miguel Calling (5:00); Lyric Videos.

REVIEW: The Flash: The Complete Ninth and Final Season

REVIEW: The Flash: The Complete Ninth and Final Season

The Flash arrived on the CW as an antidote to the heavy, bleak world of Arrow. Our Scarlet Speedster was going to be a bright, upbeat superhero series and it was—at first. With each successive season, it grew bleaker and more chaotic as an overstuffed cast all demanded screentime and the writing staff never seemed to grasp that there were other villains than those connected to the Speed Force.

The 2022-23 television season brought us The Flash’s ninth and final season, providing a chance to give closure to the core characters. Tomorrow, Warner Home Entertainment releases The Flash: The Complete Ninth and Final Season.

Across the truncated season, everyone had a moment to shine, get their due, take a bow and move aside so the Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and Nora West Allen (Candice Patton) center got to have the last word as they finally welcomed Nora to the preset. We’d already seen more than enough of her adult self (Jessica Patrick Kennedy) in previous seasons.

A distracting plot line was the arrival of a new character in a familiar form, that of Khione (Danielle Panabaker), created because they wrote Frost and Caitlin Snow out at the end of the eighth season. There was little need for that, and their absence was keenly felt since this new person was a deus ex machina. It also meant Chillblaine (Jon Cor) spend most of the season moping.

The supporting players show some growth, notably Cecile Horton (Danielle Nicolet), becoming a hero in her own right, although the costume felt superfluous. The Allega (Kayla Compton)/Chester (Brandon McKnight) romance, which always felt like juvenile high school stuff, finally got them together, ending some painful moments for the actors.

It was certainly nice seeing recurring players get their curtain call, notably John Wesley Shipp. More than a few speedsters and villains came but, but it all felt overly stuff and some, such as Dreamer (Nicole Maines) felt rather superfluous. And the series couldn’t leave without Stephen Amell coming back one final time and his appearance was perhaps the best use of a character.

Of course, it was all coming down to a finale between Cobalt Blue/Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett) and Eobard Thawne (Tom Cavanagh). But before that, we had to deal with the Red Death (Javica Leslie), alternate reality’s warped version of Batwoman Ryan Wilder. While it was nice to see Leslie, this didn’t advance the story or characters and felt more like filler than anything tasty.

With a finite number of episodes and an ending to reach, one would have hoped that the creative staff more carefully choreographed the events so we were left with a far more satisfying conclusion.

The final season is out on a Blu-ray-only box set without a Digital HD code. All the episodes look fine in their 1080p, 1.78:1 aspect transfer. The colors and special effects play quite nicely. The DTS lossless audio track is a fine compliment.

There are just a few special features this time around, including The Flash: The Saga of the Scarlett Speedster (touching on both the comics and TV series) ; Deleted Scenes, and the Gag Reel.

2023 was not kind to the Flash, with a whimper of a TV ending and a box office disaster with the feature film. One hopes that, in time, we’ll see creators do the fastest man alive some justice.

REVIEW: Babylon 5 The Road Home

REVIEW: Babylon 5 The Road Home

J. Michael Straczynski is back with a new installment in his imaginative Babylon 5 series. The difference this time is that it’s a 76-minute animated feature film, released this week from Warner Home Entertainment.

B5 launched into syndicated television sixteen years ago, featuring a somewhat darker, more nuanced approach to the future. It was filled before and behind the camera with people well-versed in the SF tropes, but used that to twist things and keep them fresh.

Here, Babylon 5 The Road Home, feels far more familiar. We’re set in the time after the Shadow War as we focus on President John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) and his wife Delenn (Rebecca Riedy) adjusting to running the 12-world Interstellar Alliance. Just as he leaves, he’s caught in the tried and true time warp allowing him to visit various parallel realities as we revisit more familiar characters and settings.

Familiarity, in this case, isn’t all bad since everyone who watched the show was happy to have more of what they liked. With so many of the cast now departed, new voices are recruited so things feel slightly off but that can’t be a fault; it’s a reality. Thankfully, we still have Peter Jurasik (Londo), Claudia Christian (Susan Ivanova), Tracy Scoggins (Elizabeth Lochley), Patricia Tallman (Lyta), and Bill Mumy (Lennier). The substitutions, such as genre vet Phil LaMarr as Dr. Stephen Franklin, are welcome.

Must you be familiar with the five seasons of the series (getting collected on disc in time for Christmas)? It certainly helps, but it’s a solid enough story that you get the gist even if the nuances may be missed.

Director Matt Peters does a nice job keeping things moving so you’re never bored, and you get to see beloved people and settings.

The film is available on disc in 4k Ultra HD and Blu-ray combos, along with streaming. The 1.78:1 ratio,  2160p, HDR-enhanced 4K transfer is above-average, with solid colors and smooth play. Accompanying it is an equally impressive DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix.

The discs come with an Audio Commentary featuring Straczynski, Boxleitner, and supervising producer Rick Morales. It’s nice to hear them reminisce and talk about the potential for additional animated stories.

Only the Blu-ray and streaming options include Babylon 5 Forever (17:57),where returning cast members and others chat about their journey back to B5.



I am not a gearhead, so I have always looked at the Fast and the Furious franchise from a distance. But their popularity makes them hard to avoid. Fast X, the tenth installment in the series, arrives on disc and streaming this week from Universal Home Entertainment and no doubt entertains those who have been there from the beginning.

As with any franchise with multiple chapters, there’s the core set of characters and then all the supporting players who drop in and out of these chapters as needed. And, to keep things interesting, new players are added, usually the antagonist and maybe a new ally or frenemy.

Here, we have the sociopathic Dante (Jason Momoa) seeking vengeance on Dom (Vin Diesel) for the death of his father (Joaquim de Almeida) a decade earlier, as depicted in Fast Five. With seemingly limitless cash and men at his disposal, he has laid out his traps and begins to ensnare the team. We learn some of this when a severely injured Cipher (Charlize Theron) shows up on Dom’s doorstep.

First, Dante seemingly frames the team—Dom, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), Han (Sung Kang), and Tej (Ludacris)—for an attempted bombing of the Vatican, although anyone paying attention to the data would have seen them trying to stop the bomb.

But, this begins the dominoes falling as The Agency’s current leader, Aimes (Alan Richardson), convinces his superiors to also hunt them down, despite Mr. Nobody’s daughter Tess (Brie Larson) protestations.

And we’re off.

The film has the usual over-the-top set pieces, but these grow tiresome quickly. Everyone is an expert driver and an expert fighter, so there’s no real tension here. Just wanton destruction and a callous attitude toward life.

Dom and Letty are filled with cliché platitudes about family and friendship, but it’s tempered by the lengths they go to protect their son  Brian (Leo Abelo Perry). His protector comes in the form of Uncle Jake Toretto (John Cena).

The screenplay from Justin Lin and Dan Mazeau keeps multiple threads moving but spends zero time of making us give a shit for anyone except maybe Brian. There’s no interesting chatter among the regulars, who seem to be hitting their marks, saying their lines, and collecting their checks. Worse, there are several moments where the story stops making any sense whatsoever, making Dante so perfect, so well-planned that everything breaks his way.

The only ones who seem to be having any fun in this film are Larson and Momoa, both of whom have a cocky attitude that shines among all the scowls and snarls.

The film screeches to a stop with the return of the once-dead Gisele Yashar (Gal Gadot) and the mid-credit sequence that welcomes Dwayne Johnson back to the series after his Black Adam arrived stillborn. The eleventh film is scheduled for 2025, but it likely may move, thanks to the current strikes.

The film was reviewed via digital HD code and looks very crisp and sharp in high definition. It is also available on 4k Ultra HD and Blu-ray in varying combo packs. The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio sounded just fine on a home theater system, so every boom and punch is quite clear.

Special features include an Audio Commentary with Director Louis Leterrier, plus an above-average assortment of material: Gag Reel’ (4:35); This is Family’ (35;00); Fast Breaks: Scene Breakdowns with Louis Leterrier (8:00); Xtreme Rides of Fast X (13:00); Belles of the Brawl (7:00); Tuned Into Rio (5:00); Jason Momoa: Conquering Rome (3:00); Little B Takes the Wheel (3:00);  A Friend in the End (1:00);  and there are two Music Videos: “Toretto” by J. Balvin and “Angel Pt. 1” by Kodak Black and NLE Choppa, featuring Jimin of BTS, JVKE and Muni Long.

REVIEW: Soldier: From Script to Screen

REVIEW: Soldier: From Script to Screen

Soldier: From Script to Screen

By Danny Stewart

144 pages/BearManor Media/$32 (hardcover) $22 (softcover)

Everyone has their passion, whether it is universally acclaimed or not. Thankfully, BearManor Media provides an outlet for their authors to share that unique passion with those who also find the subject matter of interest.          

Here, Danny Stewart delves into the 1998 film Solider, which came and went with little notice when Universe released it. Despite some marquee names making the film, it opened to poor reviews (in addition to 15% at Rotten Tomatoes) and dismal box office, earning a mere $14.6 million against a $60 million budget.

It’s justifiable if you don’t recall or never heard of the film. It was based on a script by the noted screenwriter David Webb Peoples, best known for Blade Runner. Some even call the film a “sidequel” to that classic. Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson (best known for the Resident Evil series), with the familiar cast of  Kurt Russell, Jason Scott Lee, Jason Isaacs, Connie Nielsen, Sean Pertwee, and Gary Busey.

Set in 2036, Sgt. Todd 3465 (Russell) is the last survivor of a clutch of children raised entirely by military routine. The next generation is ready, and it becomes a new versus old story, with Russell making the most of his 104 words of dialogue.

The organization of the book is a bit of a head-scratcher. After opening with an analysis of Western tropes being used in SF films, Stewart acknowledges Solider’s spiritual connection to the far superior Shane. Then we get a prose version of Russell’s IMDB page, followed by an in-depth piece with Peoples. One would expect something about Anderson, who was not interviewed, but instead, we go right into the filming personnel ahead of the film designers. That said, it’s fascinating to hear from the Second Assistant Director and the Key Makeup Artist, etc. These unsung heroes of filmmaking never get enough credit, and here, they reveal their influences and techniques brought to the making of the film. A special treat is the write-up done to convince the Academy of Motion Picture Aerts and Sciences to consider the film for a makeup nomination.

Stewart then gives us a piecemeal analysis of the film’s story, theme, and characters before running a series of essays and reviews from others. Closing out the book is an essay by Cinefantastique veteran Paul Sammon, whose making of books should have been used as a template.

Most script to screen books give us a better sense of the context from Peeples’ script to release. We have no real idea of how the various jobs intersected or overlapped. A production diary or calendar would have been interesting, as would have an analysis of why Stewart loves the film while the majority of moviegoers gave it the cold shoulder. At 144 pages, there was certainly more room to explore these issues.

The book needed more careful attention to proofreading, especially for style and consistency.

REVIEW: Popeye the Sailor: The 1960s TV Cartoons

REVIEW: Popeye the Sailor: The 1960s TV Cartoons

Popeye the Sailor: The 1960s TV Cartoons

By Fred M. Grandinetti

230 pages/$30 hardcover $20 softcover/Bear Manor Media

Like author Fred M. Grandinetti, I was a child of the 60s and was exposed to all the Popeye cartoons, and it took time for me to understand that some were excellent, some were good, and some were outright bad. It slowly became clear to me that the best was the theatrical shorts made in the 1930s by the Fleischer Studio. What was less clear was who made the others of varying quality.

Thankfully, Grandinetti provides us with a handy guide, breaking down which animation house did what, all in an attempt to corner the syndicated cartoon market when there were hours upon hours of time to fill.

Elzie Segar’s Thimble Theater featured the Oyl family, with new characters coming and going as needed for each serialized adventure. On January 17, 1929, readers met Popeye, who caught their imagination, and he never left. (That same month, they were also introduced to Tarzan and Buck Rogers, quite an exciting time to read the newspapers.)

Grandinetti has written many other works on animation with a focus on Popeye so he’s the acknowledged expert. The problem with being the expert on something is that so much is in your head that sometimes you presume everyone knows this too. There’s an awful lot of context missing from the narrative.

We open with a brief background on the strip, although the current creator, R.K. Milholland, is not listed. Then we get into his screen adaptation (here, David Fleischer is not credited at all. From here, we get the handoff from Fleischer to Paramount’s Famous Studios, and then Associated Artists Productions acquired the library of 234 shorts dating back to 1933.

As children’s television programming arrived in 1949 (Crusader Rabbit), more followed with limited animation used for cost purposes. The made-for-television shorts could never compete with the hand-drawn work for features. However, by the late 1950s, cartoons vanished from movie screens and could only be found on the small black and white screens at home.

AAP’s package of cartoons was a ratings hit for countless stations and a financial bonanza for them. King Features, which owned the character, decided to get in on the act and formed King Features Syndicate Special Service, which went on to make the comic strip characters and turn them into animated fare with very mixed results.

Hired to oversee the Popeye cartoons was Al Brodax, best known today for his work on Yellow Submarine (which featured a Popeye cameo). To get 220 new cartoons made, he divided the work over six animation houses worldwide, hence the uneven quality and clear lack of quality control.

The book has an odd order, so we get info on these studios before we do the characters. Additionally, Grandietti and the book’s editor don’t like using paragraphs, so there are long blocks of type that really needed to be broken up.

Thankfully, when he does get to the characters, he clears up, once and for all, the confusion between Bluto and Brutus, so thanks for that.

Jack Mercer, Mae Questal, and Jackson Beck. The voices of Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Bluto.

We also get nice thumbnails of the key voice performers, including Jack Mercer (whom Grandinetti wrote a bio about) who was an animator that got discovered. He also wen ton to write some of the cartoons.

Grandinetti includes sections on spinoffs inspired by the cartoon, including related merchandise.

By page 77, he seems to run out of things to say about the character and the animated history. The remainder of the book is very detailed episode guides divided by the production house. Some contain additional credits; some contain one or two lines of opinion on the quality. As a result, you really have to be a fan of the character or an animation aficionado to appreciate this book.

The designer oddly clustered all the images at the end of text sections rather than intersperse them for a better overlook loo; It would have been nice to see examples from each studio as we’re reading their history or about their output.

Ultimately, this is an uneven valentine to the lesser known and appreciated animated saga of everyone’s favorite Sailor Man.



An astronaut awakes from a horrific crash after his spaceship is knocked off course. He thinks he’s on an alien world until it becomes clear he’s on Earth. It worked in 1968’s Planet of the Apes and is far less successful when the hero goes back in time in the recent 65. As in 65 million years ago. You know, the age of dinosaurs.

The movie, out now on disc from Sony Home Entertainment, came and went in March, earning a mere 35% at Rotten Tomatoes. I suspect the low score has much to do with the heightened expectations given the writing and directing team of Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the screenwriters behind A Quiet Place, which was dripping with tension and plot inventiveness.

Here’s it’s more of a cookie-cutter survival story as Mills (Adam Driver) goes on a two-year space flight to earnt he money to treat his ill daughter Nevine (Chloe Coleman), who is also aboard. Once they crash, the surviving complement is scattered and in time Mills finds young Koa (Ariana Greenblatt) and his fatherly instincts kick into gear even if they speak different languages.

They struggle through the lush, jungle foliage in an attempt to reach the Zoic, an escape shuttle. Standing in their way are all the usual problems one finds in the prehistoric era. Various dinosaur species, rock slides, and the like.

If there’s any pleasure to be taken from this formular film is the deepening rapport between Mills and Koa. Driver’s protagonist is deeply flawed, given to lying and less heroic actions. But his care for Koa wins out and he ahs a fine acting partner in Greenblatt. Still, Jurassic Park did humans versus dinosaurs better and this offers nothing new.

The film, available in a variety of formats, has a perfectly fine if unspectacular 1080 p Blu-ray transfer. Its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack is a touch superior, but together, they make for fine home viewing. The combo pack comes with Blu-ray and Digital HD Code.

The Special Features are as by-the-0numbers as the film itself., We have five Deleted Scenes (8:03); Set in Stone: Filmmakers (14:21); Future of Yesterday: Creating the World of 65 (4:56);  Primordial Planet (2:30); and Final Showdown: Concepts to Screen (10:14).

REVIEW: Max Fleischer’s Superman

REVIEW: Max Fleischer’s Superman

One of the joys of growing up in the 1960s is that you were treated to cartoons from earlier eras, long before limited animation filled the Saturday morning airwaves. Among those gems were the work of Max and Dave Fleischer, including Popeye, Gulliver’s Travels and, of course, Superman. Since then, they have fallen into public domain and were widely available, but never in the best condition.

Until Warner Bros. Home Entertainment got involved. First came a DVD set in 02006 and now we have a Blu-ray collection, mastered from the original film negatives. All seventeen episodes from September 26, 1941 through July 30, 1943 are here.

For those unfamiliar, the fairly formulaic stories involve a problem, Lois Lane (Joan Alexander) getting into trouble, Clark Kent (Bud Collyer) changing in the phone booth (the trope introduced in the second short), and Superman to the rescue. This si the early Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster Superman, so he’s not invulnerable to everything, he can’t exactly fly, and actually can wear down. We root for him to get back up, to not give in, and to fight the good fight.

None of the cartoons are based on any of the comic book stories and no supporting player or villain makes the leap. Even Perry White (Julian Noa), the Daily Planet editor, is named, just seen.

With an unprecedented $50,000 per ten-minute cartoon budget, the Fleischers rotoscoped portions of the stories and provided lush, multi-plane animation. The first nine the brothers produced remain among the most beloved animated cartoons produced in America. They were certainly influential on subsequent generations, notably Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, who used that look and feel for their Batman The Animated Series (but you knew that by now, right?).

Mad scientists, mechanical monsters, defrosted dinosaurs and the like are all here. As is World War II patriotic themes and caricatured villains. Each has their own thrills and with just ten minutes totally avoids characterization or much real interaction between rescuer and victim.
The effort to retore the cartoons has been hotly debated with Digital Bits slamming the effort with a scathing review. I suppose if you’re a videophile, their concerns have merit. But for someone who just wants a nice, clean DVD containing Superman history, you will barely notice.
Are they perfect? No. Errors from the DVD set, such as the incorrect intros, remain uncorrected. Clearly, a little more care could have been expended for the 1080p upgrade.

There’s nothing major to complain about regarding the DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track.

The disc comes with the twin bonus features from the 2009 DVD— First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series (12:55) and The Man, The Myth, Superman (13:37) — plus one new piece: Max Fleischer’s Superman: Speeding Towards Tomorrow (13:20). Here, Warner Animation’s director Matt Peters, producer Jim Krieg, supervising producer Rick Morales, and screenwriter Jeremy Adams hold forth on the legacy of the cartoons.

This is likely as good as it will get so if you don’t have this in any form, or want a reasonably priced upgrade, then this comes well recommended.