Now that the Big Two are deep into their mandatory summer crossovers – as opposed to their mandatory winter crossovers, their mandatory spring crossovers, and their mandatory fall crossovers – I can’t tell the players without a scorecard.
At the core of both series is the same plot: all or most of the sundry parallel universes are going to collide into one, if, indeed, that many. This does not envelop either series in an aura of originality, particularly when Marv Wolfman and George Pérez did this 29 years ago. You may not think they did it better way back in the early days of the Gilded Age of Comics (and you’d be wrong about that), but at the very least you could understand that story. Original Sin and Future’s End… not so much.
At least Marvel’s Original Sin is built around a clever plot point: somebody offed The Watcher and stole one or both of his eyes… and then, one eye exploded implanting various deep dark secrets held by various characters into the brainpans of those who were within the blast radius of the eyeball.
No, I don’t know how big the blast radius of a Watcher eyeball is. And I’m a bit pissed off at offing the big bald guy anyway, but it’s comic books, where death has no meaning whatsoever. If they ever kill Aunt May off, she’ll be back in a few months with a bionic bustle.
DC’s Future’s End simply makes no sense. Batman Beyond is sent back in time to prevent the end of the world as we know it, but he misses his mark and arrives later than he was supposed to. Well, fine. That’s it. The hero blew it and it’s over, right?
No such luck. All the characters wander around slapping their foreheads and mumbling woe is me a lot. It doesn’t help that this series features the New 52 version of the DC Universe, which really hasn’t been very well-defined or thought out, but has been compromised after-the-fact by bureaucrats who wouldn’t know a good comics story if they bothered to read one.
It was time to retire the mega-event crossover before we started worrying about Y2K. But these puppies make money, so the Big Two are going to keep on hitting the event button like a crack whore with new kneepads.
It’s easy to understand why comics fans like the Marvel movies. They exist in a comparatively small universe with clear roadmaps. DC doesn’t have that goodwill going for them, and Man Of Steel offered little hope.
But we continue to hope. These are great characters. We love them, and we hope that someday the powers at Warners and Disney start to trust those characters as much as we do, before the core audience is all on catheters and people start to view Superman and Wolverine the way we view The Lone Ranger and Buck Rogers.
Hair Shirt By Patrick McEown Abrams/SelfMadeHero, 119 pages, $24.95
A second chance at love or happiness is often cause for celebration, but as Patrick McEown explores in his graphic novel Hair Shirt, it is not always for the best. From the murky cover color through the final page, the book’s emotional spectrum tends towards the dark and troubled.
We’re in a non-descript, unnamed city when John, a college student seemingly scared of everything, chances upon Naomi, a childhood friend who always represented the promise of more. As they take up with one another again, their other connections with the world drop away and McEwon tightly focuses on what they bring to the relationship and what they bring out of the other.
Growing up, John and Naomi’s older brother were best of pals, doing everything together. That is, until the family relocated across town for some unexplained by clearly sinister reason. Chris and John reconnected in high school and by then the damage was done; they were completely different people with little in common. Chris was a troubled adolescent, hinting at abuse which was masked through obnoxious behavior. As a result, John drifted towards a deeper, more interesting relationship with the shy, and equally damaged Naomi.
After Chris dies, a victim of a car accident, the mother and Naomi flee for the west coast and she vanishes from John’s life. McEown shows us that neither can fully let go of their personal demons but merely hints at them, without really showing us what makes them tick. As a result, the hair shirt he metaphorically knits, the symbol of penance, makes little sense. We’re at least given hints what happened to Naomi; what made turned John into an introspective loner is never explored or explained.
Similarly, McEown, whose work captured our attention with Grendel: Warchild and went on to a varied career that stretches from Disney Adventures Magazine to storyboarding Batman Beyond uses a very muted color palette from beginning to end. Despite the heavy paper stock, some of the pages are just too dark to properly make out what’s happening. The various flashbacks probably could have benefitted from
Neither character appears to have a direction with their studies, nor do they seem to attend classes or do homework, but instead try to figure out what has happened to them. Naomi is nowhere near as annoying or self-destructive as her brother, but the trauma she endured in the past also prevents her from properly loving John. Instead, she keeps egging him into a physical relationship with Shaz, a zaftig mutual friend.
Additionally, the razor thin balloon tails can disappear inside the dark colors so some of the conversations between characters can be difficult to follow. There’s a lot left unsaid and open for interpretation so this emotionally wearing story could benefit from clarity wherever possible.
This is anything but your typical romance given how damaged both protagonists are but it’s also hard to find someone to root for given how dysfunctional they are. For John at least, the story’s conclusion offers us a glimmer of hope while poor Naomi is left with her inner demons, the one person who understood her now driven away.
This is bleak, difficult territory and despite the dark colors, McEown’s artwork is emotionally evocative and his dialogue has a nice natural ring to it. Love is never simple but it’s clearly what most everyone is seeking, even in the dismal city where memories are as vivid as the people close by.
Last year I wrote an article about the wave of amazing comic-book related cartooning that was going on. Well, here we are now and I’m sitting on the stoop with an Old English tipped towards the curb. Ounce after putrid smelling ounce of malt liquor spatters on the pavement. The yeasty brew gurgles and slushes into an adjacent drain.
Both Young Justice and Green Lantern have slowly grown into their skin, delivering stories that are equally entertaining and sophisticated without losing any action beats for those just looking for the boom-boom-pow. Both series combined with a pair of schizophrenically wonderful animated shorts, have grown into the only block of programming I go out of my way to DVR and watch commercial free, every week. And much like a few other DC shows that came and went before their time (Batman Beyond, Legion of Super Heroes, and Teen Titans – to an extent), I yearn for what could have been.
To its credit, Green Lantern won me over. The pilot wasn’t much to write home about. Much of the first season had to spend time universe-building. But to their credit, once this was done, the show really took off. And contrary to every gripe and groan I’ve ever sputtered in my columns, GL:TAS did something I truly thought was impossible; it made me like Hal Jordan. It was as if the writers realized that a plucky cocksure pilot with a strong moral compass was cool enough as-is to place as a POV character amidst a crazy universe! Add in a strong sidekick in Kilowog, and the non-comic-originating Razor and Aya… and you end up with a great main cast with enough personal drive (beyond the major season-long arcs) to carry the series for a good long while. At the end of season one, the series had properly introduced us to Mogo, Red and Blue lanterns, the Star Sapphires, and a handful of solid DC cosmic villains.
Come to the second season, and I’ve been truly blown away at the trajectory the stories were moving towards. I honestly figured we’d have continual expansion on the Red Lanterns and maybe an attempt to ignite a yellow or orange corps story. But nay. They unearthed the Anti-Monitor. And with him has come a season that has upped the drama without becoming mopey. Ring-slinging, internal conflict with the Guardians (who aren’t the silly one-dimensional mustache twirlers Geoff Johns wants you to hate…), cameos by Guy Gardner, Sinestro, Tomar Re, and even Ch’p… simply put: GL:TAS was properly creating the mythos that real GL fans has yearned for since the teasers were announced.
Young Justice, much like Green Lantern, started very slow for me. A series built on the angtsy teenage trope wasn’t high on my “new dad” radar. But over time, I realized what the show was doing. Rather than retread old storylines, the first season was all about pushing the idea that this elseworldsesque universe was a smart and slick dressing down of the bloated DCnU. And much like GL:TAS, the second season turned everything on its ear.
The series jumped five years into the future, smeared the Justice League and introduced no less than four major cosmic alien races to the show. In addition, the roster of YJ soon grew to an unlimited level, allowing for each episode to really explore old and new faces. This shot in the arm forced the angsty characters of season one to mature, and with it came a sophisticated serialized structure that dare I say… is smarter and better pulled off than any comic book DC is putting out right now.
As I’m sure you’ve all read Mike’s article this week, you know that in place of these two series will be new DC Nation fodder: a new take on Batman, and Teen Titans: Go! When these series were first announced, I admit I’d built up a fan-boner for the potential two-hour block of DC programming. Alas, what we are left with feels… safe. And I hate safe.
Dusting off the Titans isn’t such a bad idea – their series became damn near brilliant towards the end of its run – but giving over a half hour series to a comedy-tinged romp of SD Titans just oozes “Hey Ultimate Spider-Man, we can be funny too!” Never mind the fact that Ultimate-Spider Man really stinks (and before you flame me, go watch Sensation Spider-Man and shut your mouth).
And I’ll leave well-enough alone: Mike hit the nail on the head with Batman.
Well, it looks like my last drops of booze are bounding towards oblivion. I’ll enjoy the remaining episodes of Young Justice and Green Lantern as I have with all other quality DC animated shows. A tear in my eye, a pile of less-than-stellar comics at my feet, and a finger hovering over an Amazon cart page, awaiting the eventual release of the DVDs. While I hold very little hope for the next wave of DC toons… if nothing else can be learned from my ranting above… a good show (cartoons included) take time to find sea legs. Unlucky for all of us… the second these shows find them? The powers-that-be cap them off at the knee.
It’s the end of the year, so it’s time for still another mindless list of favorites – maintaining a cloying, egotistical annual tradition throughout the media. Once again, here are my self-imposed rules: I’m only listing series that either were ongoing or ran more than six issues, I’m not listing graphic novels or reprints as both compete under different criteria, I’m not covering Internet-only projects as I’d be yanking the rug out from under my pal Glenn Hauman, and I’m listing only nine because tied for tenth place would be about two dozen other titles and I’ve only got so much bandwidth. Besides, “nine” is snarky and when it comes to reality, I am one snarky sumbytch – but only for a living. On Earth-Prime, I’m really a sweet, kind, understanding guy.
Having said all that, let’s open that hermetically sealed jar on the porch of Funk and Wagnalls and start.
1. Manhattan Projects. If I had to write a Top 9 of the Third Millennium list, I’d be hard pressed not to include this title. It’s compelling, it’s different, it’s unpredictable and it’s brilliantly executed by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Nick Pitarra. It turns out the scientists and the military leaders behind the creation and the execution of the Atomic Bomb had a lot more in mind than just nuking Japan… a lot more. And their plans run decades longer than World War II. Based largely upon real-life individuals who are too dead to litigate, each person seems to have his own motivations, his own ideas for execution, and his own long-range plan for how to develop the future. Yet the story never gets bogged down in political posturing or self-amusing cuteness – the latter being a real temptation for many creators. Each issue gives us the impression there’s more than meets the eye; each successive issue proves there most certainly was. If the History Channel spun off a Paranoia Network, Manhattan Projects would be its raison d’être.
2. Hawkeye. If you’ll pardon the pun, Hawkeye has never been more than a second-string character. An interesting guy with an involving backstory and enough sexual relationships to almost fill a Howard Chaykin mini-series, this series tells us what Clint Barton does when he’s not being an Avenger or a S.H.I.E.L.D. camp follower. It turns out Clint leads a normal-looking life that gets interfered with by people who think Avengers should be Avengers 24/7. He’s also got a thing going with the Young Avenger who was briefly Hawkeye. Matt Fraction and David Aja bring forth perhaps the most human interpretation of a Marvel character in a long, long while. Hawkeye might be second-string, but Clint Barton most certainly is not.
3. Captain Marvel. Another second-string character. Despite some absolutely first-rate stories (I’m quite partial to Jim Starlin’s stuff, as well as anything Gene Colan or Gil Kane ever put pencil to paper), the guy/doll never came close to the heritage of its namesake. This may have changed. A true role model for younger female readers and a very military character who uniquely humanizes the armed forces, Carol Danvers finally soars under writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Dexter Soy – both as a superhero and as a human being. DeConnick doesn’t qualify as “new” talent, but this certainly is a breakthrough series that establishes her as a truly major player… as it does Marvel’s Captain Marvel.
4. Creator-Owned Heroes. Anthology comics are a drag upon the direct sales racket. They almost never succeed. I don’t know why; there’s usually as much story in each individual chapter as there is in a standard full-length comic. I admire anybody who choses to give it a whirl (hi, there, honorary mention Mike Richardson and company for Dark Horse Presents!), and I really liked Creator-Owned Comics. Yep, liked. It’s gone with next month’s eighth issue. But this one was a lot more than an anthology comic: it had feature articles, how-to pieces, and swell interviews. The work of Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Steve Niles, Steve Bunche and a cast of dozens (including swell folks like Phil Noto and Darwin Cooke), there wasn’t a clinker in the bunch. I wouldn’t mind seeing follow-ups on any of the series featured in this title, although I must give a particular nod to Jimmy and Justin’s Killswitch, a take on modern contract killers, and on Steve’s work in general. This is no light praise: I’m not a big fan of horror stories because most of them have been done before and redone a thousand times after that. Niles is quite the exception.
5. Batman Beyond Unlimited. Okay, this is a printed collection of three weekly online titles: Batman Beyond, Justice League Beyond, and Superman Beyond. But it comes out every month in a sweet monthly double-length printed comic, so it meets my capricious criteria. Based upon the animated DC Universe (as in, the weekly series Batman Beyond and Justice League, and to a lesser extent others), these stories are solid, fun, and relatively free of the angst that has overwhelmed the so-called real DCU stories. Yeah, kids can enjoy them. So can the rest of the established comics audience. Pull the stick out of your ass; there’s more to superhero comics than OCD heroes and death and predictable resurrection. These folks have just about the best take on Jack Kirby’s Fourth World characters than anybody since Jack Kirby. That’s because Jack remembered comics are supposed to be entertaining. Honorable mention: Ame-Comi Girls. It’s based on a stupid (but successful) merchandising idea but it’s just as much fun as anything being published today.
6. Batgirl. O.K. The real story here is that DC Comics mindlessly offed writer Gail Simone from this series only to restore her within a week or so after serious (and occasionally, ah, overly dramatic) protest from both the readership and the creative community. But there was good reason: Gail took a character who was in an impossible situation and, against all tradition, put her back in the costume without resorting to ret-con or reboot, which have been the handmaidens of the New 52. She brought Barbara Gordon back to action with all the doubts, insecurities and vulnerabilities one would expect a person in her position to have, and she does so in a compelling way exercising all of her very considerable talent. This title thrives despite being engulfed in two back-to-back mega-non-events that overwhelmed and undermined all of the Batman titles.
7. Orchid. I praised this one last year; it comes to an end with issue 12 next month. That’s because writer/creator/musician/activist Nightwatchman Tom Morello has a day job and the young Wobblie still has a lot of rabble to rouse. Orchid is a true revolutionary comic book wherein a growing gaggle of the downtrodden stand up for themselves against all odds and unite to defeat the omnipresent oppressor. Tom manages to do this without resorting to obvious parallels to real-life oppressors, although the environment he creates will be recognizable to anybody who thinks there just might be something wrong with Fox “News.” But this is a comic book site and not the place for (most of) my social/political rants (coughcough). Orchid succeeds and thrives as a story with identifiable, compelling characters and situations and a story that kicks ass with the energy and verve one would expect from a rock’n’roller like Morello.
8. Revival. A somewhat apocalyptic tale about people who come back from the dead in the fairly isolated city of Wausau Wisconsin (I’ve been there several times; it is a city and it is indeed fairly isolated). But they aren’t zombies. Most are quite affable. It’s the rest of the population that’s got a problem. The latest output from Tim Seeley and my landsman Mike Norton, two enormously gifted talents. Somewhere above I noted how Steve Niles is able to raise well above the predictable crap and that is equally true here: the story and formula is typical, but the execution is compelling. That I’ve been a big fan of Norton’s is no surprise to my friends in Chicago.
9. Nowhere Men. I’ve got to thank my ComicMix brother Marc Alan Fishman for this one. Admittedly, it’s only two issues old and it has its flaws – long prose insertions almost always bring the pace of visual storytelling to a grinding halt – but the concept and execution of this series far exceeds this drawback. Written by Eric Stephenson and drawn by Nate Bellegarde and Jordie Bellaire, the catch phrase here is “Science Is The New Rock ‘N’ Roll.” Four guys start up a science-for-the-people company and that’s cool, but twenty years later some have taken it too seriously, others not seriously enough, and things got a little out of hand. Sadly, I’m not certain who understands that, other than the reader and one of the major characters. Science is the new rock’n’roll, and exploring that as a cultural phenomenon makes for a great story – and a solid companion to Manhattan Projects.
Non-Self-Publisher of the Year: For some reason, I’m surprised to say it’s Image Comics. They’ve been publishing many of the most innovative titles around – four of the above nine – all creator-owned, without going after licensed properties like a crack-whore at a kneepad sale.
No offense meant to either publishers or crack-whores; I said I’m really a sweet, kind, understanding guy.
For as forward-thinking as I’d like to position myself as being, I am a comic book luddite. Where I was like the rest of my generation – adopting the the MP3 over CD, and taking to the cloud the second I had the opportunity – I have never been lured by the siren’s song of digital comic book reading. That is until I was gifted some not too long ago. And here I am to report on whether I’m slowly turning towards the horizon of sequential fiction.
First off, you should know what prey-tell I was gifted. DC’s Justice League Beyond, as pitched to me by Mike Gold, was “…perhaps the best straight-forward action team book being put out today.” Well, given Mike’s pedigree and tastes, I was willing to bite on that. And with no more pretense than that single line of praise, I tore through 12 digital issues. At the tail end of them, I’m happy to report Mike is very close to right with his kind words.
JLB is an extension of the animated Batman Beyond Universe, birthed by our lords and saviors Bruce Timm and Paul Dini and brought to us by the writing, penciling, and inking team of Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs. And much like Dini and Timm’s futuretoon, the digital book appears light as a feather in presentation, but its looks are truly deceiving.
Beneath the veneer of simplistic art and truly light prose, comes a world-shattering tale worthy of the Justice League. Backed by a few “secret origins” to break up the main story, a solid hour of reading gave way to lasting moments of truly memorable scenes and concepts. Case in point: Fridolfs and Nguyen are able to create a New Gods story that is near Kirby-level in its weight and presentation. If that isn’t cause enough to pause, well, I don’t know what else is.
From the visual standpoint, I’m less than thrilled. I get that the appeal of the book ties directly to its parent animation. But in the realm of comics, there’s far more to do than just replicate someone’s style and call it a day. Call me crazy, but I’d like to see them reach a bit further visually then what DC delivered. Without knowing anything beyond what I was reading, the books ‘looked’ just the teeniest bit phoned in. It could be the stylistic choice of editorial to match the show so closely.
The truest compliment I can lay out though comes in aforementioned origin issues. Meant as breathers between the main “War to end all wars” arc, here we get glimpses into the backstories of two characters that never struck me as more than filler bodies. Warhawk and Aquagirl are each given a backstory treatment that would shame the king of origins, Geoff Johns. Delivering real pathos, enhanced by a few Easter egg nods and winks to the comic historians amongst us. And for those (like me) that lived-ate-and-breathed the Dini/Timm-Verse? Well, this whole series is like a trip back to a better time. And better than that, they took the time in both cases to try a different visual approach. Loose and simple still, but with enough of a change to allow to enjoy the stories on a higher level.
But the crux of the matter to me was in the enjoyment. Did I have as good a time e-flipping through the pages as I do with normal comics? Sadly, no. To be fair, I tried reading the files both on my large iMac screen and my wife’s iPad – which is as close to the size of a single comic page as one can get digitally. The book itself is cut in odd places. It was hard to tell if it was built in “standard” format akin to be eventually printed, or if it was always intended only for digital consumption. Given what I saw, I believe it to be the latter. And that in and of itself isn’t a dig. For the longest time, I enjoyed DC’s Zuda line of web comics mostly due to its formatting being suited for the screens at the time. Here though, the digital books read just a bit wonky to me. Some pages are portrait, others are landscape. And although each issue is 20+ pages, in some issues there’s barely six or seven actual pages worth of content.
I am all for the idea that the comic companies shoot to create all digital publications; it’s the future whether or not I’m an adopter. But the key here needs to be the same as it in print. That is to say the final product need not short the reader with content, just because its home is on the backlit screen of a retina-display.
At the end of the day, I know that this initial pass into the non-inky realms was not enough to lure me over permanently. That being said, I would be more prone at this point to enjoy digital titles should they wholly separate entities built specifically for the medium. And if they are significantly less money than the printed counter part (akin to the music or TV episodes), then I’m even more likely to consider incorporating it into the fabric of my e-life.
Most important though is that the quality is no different on screen than it’d be on the page. When you have to make art that is only 72 DPI, it can be tempting to become chinsy with the deliverable (both in words on the page, and the stories delivered per issue, as I was noting in the over-before-they-got-started JLB issues). The comic brethren must remember that the digital music and movie media eventually made their way to HD.
With all of those pieces in place? I can rest happy that my son may end up collecting his longboxes on a hard drive instead of a basement. Assuredly though… this digital-aged bearded bloke will still be bagging and boarding his wares until they stop putting them in the stores.
Last week I bitched and moaned about how we’ve turned our backs on comics that can be appreciated by readers of all ages in order to follow the money that kids ain’t got and some adults might have. I also tied this into continuity impenetrable to newcomers that is spread over about a hundred dollars’ worth of monthly product. I can be snotty that way.
In just the past couple of years, we have seen something of a return to comics that can be enjoyed by readers young and old. Publishers can’t help the self-consciousness suffered by Baby Boomers and some Gen-Xers, but today’s new middle-agers were raised without much of the stigma us old folks suffered during the Wertham rage. So, I am now taking it upon myself to point out a few titles that work for a general audience that is fearless enough to read comic books on the bus, be it to work or to school.
I’ve been quite impressed with Dynamite’s Zorro Rides Again, written by Matt Wagner and drawn (now) by John K. Snyder III. That’s quite a pedigree, and their work lives up to it. You do not have to be steeped in a century of Zorrodom to understand what’s going on: it’s all about a revolutionary with a sword on a horse who fights Spanish oppression in the name of the people of California. Solid action, great storytelling, and an even greater story. You can’t go wrong here; it’s a damn fine book.
Image Comics has been running a little superhero series called Savage Dragon for almost 20 years now – the main series is up to issue 180, for crying out loud – and there’s a reason why writer/artist/creator Erik Larson’s work has endured: it deserves to. Yeah, it’s all about a big hyper-muscled green-scaled head-finned superhero; what’s it to you? It’s chock full of solid characterization and mayhem alike. I think it appeals to the same sort of 11 year old that found Marvel Comics so accessible and so exciting a couple generations ago as well as to older readers get a solid comic book experience that isn’t fraught with sturm und drang. The real old farts will be reminded why we liked comics in the first place without having to hit up 50ccs of nostalgia.
The real surprise here comes from DC Comics. While all the focus and attention has been on the New 52, a line too interconnected and too continuity convoluted to access the broader spectrum of readers, over on the West Coast their editorial operation has been publishing a nice little self-contained universe of superheroes in a continuity that had its roots in a teevee series cancelled long ago. The book is called Batman Beyond Unlimited and for those who are unfamiliar with the proto-show it’s The Old DC Universe – The Next Generation… except some members of the original generation (Bruce Wayne, Kal-El) are still around.
There’s three different series going on in this giant-sizedish monthly: Batman Beyond, Superman Beyond, and Justice League Beyond. The latter group has Superman (the original, a man out of his time), Batman (Terry McGinnis, although Bruce Wayne is still around and more cranky than ever), Warhawk – the son of Hawkgirl and John Stewart, as well as contemporary versions of Green Lantern, The Atom and others. They back-fill the origins while remaining constant with previously established continuity, but – and this is why it works – you don’t need to be Mark Waid to understand who’s who, what’s what, and how everybody got that way. Available as weekly downloads in individual series titles or in the Batman Beyond Unlimited monthly, by avoiding the grim and gritty wallowing in apocalyptic hopelessness, this is a title that can be enjoyed by all but the most anal-retentive cynic.
And when was the last time I wasn’t the most anal-retentive cynic?
THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil and the Trilogy Trend
Strong willed, intelligent, feisty, relentless, outspoken. You’d be speaking of Lois Lane or Pauley Perrette?
Actually, both – which made the NCIS star the perfect match as the voice of the resourceful reporter for Superman vs. the Elite, the latest DC Comics Premiere Movie coming June 12 courtesy of Warner Home Video.
Perrette’s raspy vocal tones and spunky, never-back-down approach gives a new-yet-familiar perspective to the animated Lois Lane, particularly playing opposite the strong, traditional performance of Justice League veteran George Newbern in reprising his role as Superman.
Over nine seasons and more than 200 episodes, Perrette has mesmerized audiences with her portrayal of Gothy forensic specialist Abby Sciuto on NCIS, regularly the top rated drama series on primetime television. The role has elevated Paulette’s popularity into are air – in August 2011, she registered the top Q-score in all of primetime television. Not only was she the only female to rank among the Top 10 TV actors, her score matched that of feature film luminaries like Tom Hanks.
In addition to NCIS, Perrette has appeared in feature films like The Ring and Almost Famous, and had recurring roles on The Drew Carey Show, Jesse, Dawson’s Creek, 24 and Murder One. For the 2009 indie short To Comfort You, Perrette earned the award for Best Female Performance at the Beverly Hills Film Festival in the Short Film Drama category.
And while Perrette doesn’t boast a large amount of experience in animation, this isn’t her first time in the Bruce Timm pool – having given voice to a police officer in an episode of Batman Beyond.
In Superman vs. the Elite, Superman’s effectiveness as a super hero comes into question when a new group of super powerful crusaders, known as “The Elite,” appear on the scene. As super heroes, the Elite know no bounds, and are more than willing to kill, even on a massive scale, to stop villainy — putting them on a collision course with the ever-ethical and decidedly non-lethal Man of Steel.
Produced by Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation, the all-new, PG-13 rated film arrives June 12, 2012 from Warner Home Video as a Blu-ray™ Combo Pack and DVD, On Demand and for Download. Both the Blu-ray™ Combo Pack and DVD will include an UltraViolet™ Digital Copy.
The ever-gracious Perrette spent some time after her initial recording session to chat about her love of Superman and Abraham Lincoln, her hatred of bad guys, her own super heroic efforts on behalf of numerous human rights charities, and the benefits of a criminal science collegiate background in acting today. Please read on and, wherever available, watch the video clips of Ms. P’s interview.
QUESTION: Was there any special personal significance for you to act in a Superman movie?
PAULEY PERRETTE: When I was little, I think that I wanted Superman to be my boyfriend. So this is the next best thing. I get to pretend to be Superman’s girlfriend. Although the older I’ve become, I’ve sort of decided that I would rather be Superman myself. So I’m trying (she snickers).
But even my first memory of a super hero was of Superman, because I had a crush on him. Well, it was on Clark Kent, Superman and Christopher Reeve, all rolled into one.
QUESTION: Did you have any preconceived ideas of how you wanted to play Lois Lane?
PERRETTE: When you’re doing voice work, and I said it right when I came in the door, I said, ‘I’m very obedient, and I will take direction.” Because the people who have written this, and the ones who have been envisioning the animation in their head, they have such a specific concept on what they want, that it’s good for me to say, “Give it to me. Give me every piece of direction you want. I’ll do it 10 different ways. Whatever you want.” It’s their vision, and I want to achieve that. If I get an idea while I’m doing a voice, I will offer it … “Hey, can we try this?” But it’s still up to them.
QUESTION: Your emphasis in college was rooted in studying subjects like sociology, psychology and criminal science. How do you think that’s benefitted you as an actress and, in particular, has it lent new perspective on Lois Lane?
PERRETTE: I do think my background in sociology, psychology and criminal science has helped me as an actor because I spent years and a years and years studying human behavior as a science, and as an actor — in approaching a role like Lois Lane or any character – it’s always fascinating to me to try to figure them out psychologically and sociologically. In many ways, acting is really like a science to me to figure out the human behavior of any character that I’m playing.
QUESTION: Now we know how you come to understand your characters. Do you have any acting tricks to then convert that information into a portrayal?
PERRETTE: I always tell myself that when you’re playing a character, pretend like they’re on trial and you’re giving the best witness of their life. You really need to think about every element of the character and represent them properly, as if they were a real person. You want to give 100 percent of what they’re worth and what they deserve as people.
QUESTION: Do you see Lois Lane as an important role model for girls, and who inspired you as a kid?
PERRETTE: Lois Lane is an inspirational character because she’s a smart and powerful woman. Even when she’s with Superman, she has no problem putting him in his place, and giving her opinion. It’s quite an honor to give voice to Lois Lane and be part of that legacy. My personal inspirations were a lot of the smart women throughout history, like Marie Curie and Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart. Those are the ones that really inspired me. And the love of my life, Abraham Lincoln.
QUESTION: It seems as though you spend almost as much time volunteering for charities as you do on set. With as much charity work as you do, aren’t you a bit of a super hero yourself?
PERRETTE: My life outside of work is pretty much about charities. I have a big passion about civil rights for everyone – whoever is being downtrodden at the moment, it doesn’t matter: racial discrimination or sexual orientation or gender. Whatever it is, I’m there. I think I was a born civil rights activist. I can’t stand the smashing of a community. It’s not fair and it’s not right. We’re supposed to be here for liberty and justice for all, right?
QUESTION: Is there a geek within Pauley Perrette?
PERRETTE: My geekiness is in science and math. So if I had an ultimate geek role to play, I’d be a super scientist who was also a crime fighter. But on NCIS, I’m actually playing a crime-fighting super scientist right now, so maybe all my geeky dreams have come true!
The popular voiceover actor took time last week to speak about his days as the new Caped Crusader in preparation for this week’s release of Batman Beyond: The Complete Series, a nine-disc limited edition DVD set that presents nearly 20 hours of animated action spread over 52 episodes, as well as including all-new bonus featurettes and a 24-page, 8”x 12” collectible booklet.
Batman Beyond: The Complete Series centers on Terry McGinnis, an ordinary teenager … until his father is mysteriously murdered. Suspecting foul play at his father’s company, Wayne/Powers Corporation, Terry meets Bruce Wayne and learns of a secret identity hidden for decades. Now too old to don the cape and cowl as Batman, Wayne refuses to help – so Terry does what any brash young kid would do: steal the Bat-suit and take matters into his own hands! Vowing to avenge his father’s death, Terry dons the high-tech suit tricked out with jetpacks, a supersensitive microphone and even camouflage capabilities in search of his father’s assassin.
The all-star production team was headed by executive producer Jean MacCurdy and producers Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, Glen Murakami and Paul Dini. Writers on the series included Burnett and Dini, as well as Stan Berkowitz, Bob Goodman, Rich Fogel, Hilary Bader and John McCann.
Friedle made his mark in live-action television and film from the time
he turned 10, starring in hit series like Boy Meets World and Don’t Just
Sit There. He gradually shifted his attention to voiceover work, taking
the lead in Batman Beyond and co-starring in Disney’s Kim Possible to
name but a few. Today, he primarily stays behind the microphone, voicing
such notable roles as Doyle on The Secret Saturdays and Blue Beetle on Batman: The Brave and the Bold.Will Friedle took a futuristic
Dark Knight in altogether new directions as the voice of Terry McGinnis
in Warner Bros. Animation’s breakthrough 1999 series Batman Beyond.
QUESTION: When you think back on all those Batman Beyond sessions, what are your favorite memories of recording the series?
WILL FRIEDLE: This sounds like a cheesy answer, but working with Andrea (Romano) is just the greatest experience. Every week you go in and it’s amazing and fun. You just never knew who the guest cast would be. My favorite was recording Return of the Joker. Sitting between Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill for five days was pretty incredible. I learned more about being a voiceover actor in those five days than I did in the five months before that. Just watching the two of them work – how Mark got so into the character, completely losing himself in that role. And then there’s Kevin with that deep, booming voice, always sitting with his back straight and working perfectly with the microphone. It was an education.
QUESTION: Do you have a favorite Batman Beyond episode?
WILL FRIEDLE: There was an episode called “Out of the Past” where it’s Bruce Wayne’s birthday and as a birthday present Terry takes Bruce to see a new play, “Batman: The Musical.” So there’s Bruce sitting in the audience, watching these people in costume jumping on stage, singing about the Dark Knight, and Terry’s right behind him humming the songs. And Bruce just hates it. Seeing Bruce Wayne watching “Batman: The Musical” was pretty funny.
I admit to being leery when Warner Animation announced their plans to follow the amazing [[[Batman the Animated Adventures]]] with a next generation hero called [[[Batman Beyond]]]. After all, it was a clear departure from the source material and there was no knowing how this would work.
As it turns out, there was little to fear. The series, which ran from January 1999 through December 2001, honored the past and showed us a future Gotham City that still needed a Dark Knight. Rather than just add wrinkles and gray hair to all the familiar figures, things have changed. Dick Grayson seems to be gone, Alfred and Jim Gordon are dead with Barbara Gordon now the police commissioner. And sitting in the gloom of Wayne Mansion is a still-angry, infirm Bruce Wayne.
He knows there’s work to be done and in time, targets teenager Terry McGuinness as his successor. The youth has just lost his father to violence and Wayne’s appeal sounds logical so he signs on to don a high-tech cowl, sans cape. With Wayne barking orders in his ear, Terry is the new Batman, instilling fear in the hearts of 21st century criminals.
The series lasted a strong 52 episodes plus spawned a direct-to-video film and the character wound up on other series such as [[[Static Shock]]] and was given an epilogue in episodes of [[[Justice League Unlimited]]]. There was even the tangentially-related spinoff [[[The Zeta Project]]].
Obviously the brain trust that included Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Dwayne McDuffie, and Glen Murakami rose to the occasion, taking everything they learned from their previous efforts and poured it into this series. The future was recognizable with sleeker architecture that cast new shadows on the city’s streets. The miniaturization and sophistication of the gear was not stretching the imagination and the new sorts of threats owe a nod to the rogues of the past but were fresh menaces.
Today, Warner Home Video has released the long–awaited [[[Batman Beyond the Complete Series]]] in a nifty box set. You get all three seasons of the series and the original extras plus a bonus disc. Tucked within the box is a nice 24-page booklet with character and set designs and some glimpses into the process. The box is slipped inside a plastic wrap that approximates animation cels and makes this a lovely package, perfect for the holiday season.
The episodes look great on DVD and the stories hold up after all these years.
There are three new featurettes all running about five minutes each, which looks back at the show’s origins and the thinking that went into the series’ design and architecture. You don’t learn a lot that’s new but the creators’ affection for Terry and his world is clear. There is also the 75th anniversary documentary [[[Secret Origin]]], which is nice but it would have been nicer to have the episodes and movie that Terry’s Batman appeared in, making this a real complete set.
DC Comics had grand plans for its 75th anniversary but most of them were shelved when the company evolved into DC Entertainment and the mandate was to look ahead, not back. Still, there’s the mammoth book coming from Taschen and this month we’re being treated to the documentary [[[Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics.]]] Narrated by next summer’s [[[Green Lantern]]], Ryan Reynolds, the 90 minute feature explores the company from beginning through today but given the wealth of subject matter, at best, this is a surface study.
The documentary makes good use of archival footage from creators no longer with us and mixes them in with fresh interviews so we hear from executives, writers, artists, and many of those who built the company. Among those you will see on screen include Neal Adams, Irwin Hasen, Marv Wolfman, Mark Waid, Dan DiDio, Jim Lee, Paul Levitz, Walter and Louise Simonson, Chip Kidd, Joe Kubert, Denny O’Neil, Mike Carlin, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Len Wein, Dwayne McDuffie, Geoff Johns, Karen Berger, Kyle Baker, Paul Pope, and Gerry Jones. Interestingly, Jenette Kahn, the architect for much of the company’s modern era, and current prez Diane Nelson do not appear.
This is a corporate history and as a result, it’s most famous black marks in its history, from the Fawcett law suit over Captain Marvel to the struggles of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster to gain some recognition and cash for[[[ Superman]]], are entirely omitted. Similarly, other corporate facts are either blurred, such as the separate companies[Detective Comics, Inc. and All-American Comics before becoming National Comics or the acquisitions of Quality, Fawcett, and Charlton’s heroes as each company folded are missing.
The chronology is a bit jumbled now and then but overall, we go from [[[New Comics]]] in 1935 though the forthcoming DC Universe Online. We’re treated to clips from the animated shows, live-action films, and some nifty archival footage of the Superman Writers’ Summit where the team plotted the death of Superman. The movie serials are ignored which is a shame and not enough emphasis is given to the current era of animation which was kicked off in 1990 and hasn’t looked back, influencing the comics and other animators. (more…)