Tagged: Batman: The Brave and the Bold

Green Lantern: The Complete Animated Series Due March 18

GreenLanternBDWarner Archive Collection continues to treat fans to Blu-ray™ releases of popular animated television with Green Lantern: The Comlete Animated Series coming March 18. The complete 26-episode series – on Blu-ray™ to best display the series’ stunning CG artistry – is now available for pre-order via Amazon.

Green Lantern: The Complete Animated Series is Warner Bros. Animation’s latest take on the intergalactic missions of Hal Jordan and his comrades in the Green Lantern Corps. Beautifully rendered on a breathtaking scale, Green Lantern: The Complete Animated Series is Warner Bros. Animation’s first completely CG-animated series.

Josh Keaton leads the way as the voice of Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, alongside voice-acting stars Kevin Michael Richardson (as Kilowog), Grey DeLisle (as Aya) and Jason Spisak (as Razer). The stellar guest cast includes Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption), Wayne Knight (Seinfeld), Juliet Landau (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Kurtwood Smith (That 70s Show, Resurrection), Phil Morris (Smallville), Brian George (Seinfeld) and many more.

Executive produced by Sam Register (Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Ben 10), and Bruce Timm (Batman: The Animated Series), Green Lantern: The Complete Animated Series is produced by Giancarlo Volpe (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) and Jim Krieg (Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox).

In addition to Blu-ray releases of Beware the Batman and the upcoming Green Lantern: The Complete Animated Series, Warner Archive Collection (WAC) has also recently distributed a DVD collection of Marine Boy, Season 2. WAC is also set to distribute The Jetsons: The Complete Third Season on DVD later this spring.

Marc Alan Fishman: Injustice and the Marvel Continuity Crisis

Fishman Art 140111Over the holidays I purchased for myself the Injustice: Gods Among Us video game. While I freely admit I have little to no real prowess with fighting games, I am invariably drawn to them. Compared to other types of video games, fighters allow users to enjoy a gaming session that’s like a great one-night stand; get in, get your business done, reap the rewards, and leave before it gets complicated.

The game is built on the Elseworlds principle wherein we explore the mighty DCU through the lens of yet-another alternative dimension where a slight change in the continuity results in a completely new world to explore. In Injustice, Superman is duped into killing Lois by the Joker, who adds a delightfully evil icing to his cake of cacophony by nuking Metropolis. Dead girlfriend (carrying his super scion to boot) plus nuked hometown equals Superman deciding he’s done being a reactionary hero. Cue the totalitarian state, and the necessary rebellion lead by Batman. Add in the needed Kryptonian Super Pill to balance the whole “how do you let Green Arrow fight Black Adam and not get pummeled into slime” problem and you have a damned enjoyable fracas.

I made my way through the story mode in a manner of a few nights. It was a fantastic little tale. As you may tell, it got me thinking. Why is it that DC always seems to flourish under the Elseworld concept where Marvel fails?

I assume some of you immediately get what I’m talking about. Others may be cackling at their screens “Show your work, nerdlinger!” Allow me to make my point as clearly as I can, as quickly as I can.

Here we go: At DC, Red Son. Kingdom Come. The Dark Knight Returns. The Nail. The Animated DC “Beyond” Universe.

At Marvel: 1602.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if I just stopped my article right there? Well, while I’d like to be that lazy, I shan’t be. DC seemingly lends itself to the remix better than Marvel by more than a handful of examples. To be honest, I’m not sure exactly why. It’s not like Marvel is devoid of DC analogs (and DC to Marvel, etc.). Both companies have employed more than a fair share of amazing talent to boot. But there must be something that makes DC more suited to a change of clothing more than the merry mouse-killers at Marvel.

My knee-jerk reaction is to equate DC characters as being more mythically malleable. Because they have clearly defined backstories, costuming, and personality traits, it’s much easier to simply pick one, change it and let the fun fly. Superman’s rocket lands in Russia? Boom, story changed, and a new universe is easily defined. Because the DCU is so easily reshaped while still being clearly itself, Elseworlds are amazingly easy to form, play in, and move on.

It helps that at the basic origin levels of the main players, DC is much freer to shift. Captain America will always be defined by World War II, the Punisher to Vietnam (though they’ve attempted and failed to retcon that a time or two). the X-men to civil rights. Batman, Superman, Green Lantern and their ilk are all tied only to mythologies. Bruce’s parents can get shot at any point from the industrial revolution on. Abin Sur could crash yesterday, if he needed to.

No better argument could be made than through the multitude of mediain which each have dabbled. Marvel has proven that through continuity, they will shine. Their movie-verse has bled into the teevee, and Mickey has never been stronger … or richer. In contrast, DC’s best movies and TV shows have all existed within their own confines, yet somehow continue to reap monetary rewards.

The animated DCU itself was a Bruce Timm / Paul Dini behemoth that somehow existed in one universe, but DC was able to create whole new strains of life in their Teen Titans, Legion of Super-Heroes, and Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoons without missing a beat. While Marvel spawned a few gems in their own animated right, none hold a candle in comparison. Anyone here watching Hulk: Agents of S.M.A.S.H.? Didn’t think so.

At the end of the day (on our Earth, at least), DC summarily allows itself infinite worlds with which to create its identity. Because of this, jaunts like Injustice become instant classics by allowing creators to riff on a theme without being locked into the ramifications of exhaustive continuity. For whatever the reasons are, Marvel forever will have a harder time to match their doppelgänger with this ease. While they cry into their pile of movie money, I think they’ll land on their feet. In the mean time, I’ll enjoy the next Earth to splinter off… in hopes that it will be finally be the one that makes me forget the New52.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

TUESDAY MORNING: Jen Krueger

 

REVIEW: Batman: The Brave and the Bold Season One

BatmanBraveBold_S1_1shtBatman in media has often been a victim of budgets and a fickle public’s tastes. His success or failure has also impacted the comic book incarnation. For example, after the camp live-action series crashed in 1968, the comic sales plummeted, freeing editor Julie Schwartz to take things back to the beginning and reinvent the gothic look and feel which evolved into the 1980s’ grim and gritty comics. Similarly, after a successive series of dark, moody and brilliantly execute animated series, it was most definitely time for something fresh.

Along came Batman: The Brave and the Bold, a bright, colorful, action-packed series that was a sheer delight to watch. This was a Caped Crusader who worked well with others, didn’t brood a lot but took his job far more seriously than his costumed companions. He operated in a universe where heroes and villains from across the DC Universe operated, letting animators stick in brilliant cameos and actually reinvent some of the characters most in need of a personality. Among the latter was the bearded blowhard Aquaman, ready to tell a fish story, naming the adventure with an ego-centric flourish.

Warner Archive has done us all a favor by collecting the 26-episode fist season and putting it all on two Blu-ray discs for an affordable price. The premise often involved a pre-credit sequence as the Gotham Guardian finished a case with one hero before moving on to another escapade with another. As with eponymous comic it was based on, some characters reoccurred more than others thanks to their popularity such as Green Arrow, whose rivalry with Batman for gear and gadgets made for nice humor. The current incarnation of Blue Beetle was seen as an amateur in need for tutelage and we could see him grow in confidence across the run.

BBB-PartyClearly the writers, directors, animators, and voice cast had a marvelous time and it came through with every episode. The character designs came from across DC Comics’ decades long run so Black Canary look as Carmine Infantino first drew her in the 1940s while Plastic Man was at his loopiest. It was refreshing to see the JSA heroes fighting as veterans (notably the pugilistic cracks from Wildcat) while long-simmering character bits such as those between Batman and his wards rang true.

BBB-Batmite LivingRoomA standout episode was the musical “Mayhem of the Music Meister!”, with the incredibly talented Neil Patrick Harris voicing  the title villain. And like so many other installments, this one featured not just one partner but a small army including Green Arrow, Aquaman, and. Black Canary.

Given the Earth-3 villains now running amuck in Forever Evil, it’s fun to see their animated counterparts in the two-parter that closed out the first season — “Deep Cover for Batman!” and “Game Over for Owlman!”.

By some chance you missed this when it aired on the Cartoon Network, or you want a break from the sturm und drang of the current New 52, this is a treat you want.

REVIEW: Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox

JusticeLeagueTheFlashpointParadox-finalboxartThe larger and more sweeping the cosmic event, the more the audience needs a character to act as the anchor. This was a lesson Marv Wolfman learned while writing the first such event, Crisis on Infinite Earths. Years later, when he was afforded the opportunity to novelize it, he focused on The Flash as his focal point. Similarly, Geoff Johns built the entire Flashpoint miniseries around Barry Allen and used it to upend the DC Universe and set the stage for the new 52.

While the miniseries was a beautifully drawn, sprawling mess that made little sense whatsoever, the animated adaptation does a better job honing the story and its spinoffs into a tighter, more focused tale. It still doesn’t make a whole heck of a lot of sense but it’s entertaining to watch. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is now out on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video and it’s a strong entry in the line.

Flash06

Essentially, the Flash, despite knowing better, goes back in time to prevent his mother’s death, an inexplicable decision exacerbated by his 25th century foe, Eobard Thawne, t

he Reverse Flash. Thawne channels the speed force, which they both access, to create some sort of time distorting “speed boom” that totally alters the DC Universe. As a result, Allen awakes up in a world where Mom is happily alive but not for long as Atlantis and Themyscira are waging a war that threatens to shatter the planet. He also no longer has his powers.

Among the “subtle” alterations is that Kal-El’s rocket misses Kansas and is captured by the U.S. government; Thomas Wayne survives but Bruce is shot by Joe Chill; the wizard Shazam shares his power with multiple kids, and Steve Trevor never arrived on Paradise Island, a.k.a. Themyscira. There are others but it’s a dark, depressing place to live when you have the unrepentant Len Snart running around as the beloved Citizen Cold.

Batman-Aquaman

While focusing on the core JL characters, plus Cyborg for those needing affirmative action, it totally ignores the heroes and champions of bygone eras (except for some version of Sandman), most of whom would gladly come out of retirement to prevent the war from happening. Occult beings such as the Spectre or Dr. Fate certainly would have intervened. And then we have Grifter, who was never a part of the DCU here  so it’s a mess.

Allen convinces the alcoholic Dark Knight to help him regain his speed and then they race to stop global Armageddon, allying themselves with an odd assortment of other metahumans. They also rescue the Kryptonian from custody and he miraculously demonstrates all his powers within hours of exposure to the sun although it took him years in the other reality to develop them and just as long to master them.

WonderWoman

But things zip along at such a dizzying pace, you just watch. Director Jay Oliva has a sure hand with the film, as he has in the last handful of outings. He’s saddled, though, with fairly unattractive character designs that once more over emphasize the upper half of the male bodies and give everyone pointy chins. Jim Krieg, another Warner animation vet, does a nice job making the necessary modifications to contain the story in 81 minutes. A few too many characters show up and don’t do anything but it’s nice to see them.

As usual, Andrea Romano brings in an A-list assortment of actors to voice the players led by Justin Chambers as Allen, Kevin McKidd as Thomas Wayne, and C. Thomas Howell as Thawne. The other major players include  Vanessa Marshall (Wonder Woman), Cary Elwes (Aquaman), Michael B. Jordan (Cyborg),  Kevin Conroy (Batman), Dana Delany (Lois Lane), Nathan Fillion (Hal Jordan’) and Tim Daly (Superman).

The miniseries worked as a transition by establishing the DC, Vertigo and WidlStorm universes as three parallel worlds (out of 52 known parallel universes) being brought together into a New DC Universe. The only real hint that the reformed timeline at the film’s end is the modified Flash costume Allen wears. Otherwise, it all seems the same but do watch the film through to the end of the credits for a 10 second hint of the following film, the first to resemble the New 52.

11The disc comes with the usual assortment of supplemental features. You get audio commentary from  Producer James Tucker, director Olivia, screenwriter Krieg and Johns as they chat about adapting the comics to film although there’s little new revealed here.

Rather than provided newcomers with a primer as to what this is all about, you get “A Flash in Time: Time Travel in the Flash Universe” (22 minutes) as The Hero’s Journey author Phil Cousineau provides more historic perspective than the others do for the comics that influenced the miniseries. Cousineau takes himself too seriously and the source material underexplained. Then there’s  “My Favorite Villain! The Flash Bad Guys” (19 minutes) as Cousineau, Krieg, Johns and current Flash writer Brian Buccellato discuss some of the colorful foes making up the legendary Flash Rogues’ Gallery. For Blu-ray viewers, there are Flash-centric episodes from

Justice League and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Finally, there’s a Sneak Peak at Justice League: War (8 minutes) and Flashpoint #1 Digital Comic Excerpt (a mere 8 pages in the hopes you go out and buy the graphic novel).

Lego: Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite Comes to DVD in May

LEGO Batman cover artBURBANK, CA (February 26, 2013) – DC Comics’ greatest superheroes and their arch nemeses face-off in an action-packed, hilarious battle in LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite. Based on the popular video game, TT Animation produced the full-length animated feature for May 21, 2013 distribution by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment as a Blu-ray™ Combo Pack ($24.98 SRP) and DVD ($19.98 SRP), On Demand and for Digital Download. The Blu-ray™ Combo Pack will include UltraViolet™*. Release will include an exclusive Lego Clark Kent/Superman figurine on pack while supplies last.

LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite provides the ultimate blend of action and humor guaranteed to entertain fanboys of all ages. The film finds Lex Luthor taking jealousy to new heights when fellow billionaire Bruce Wayne wins the Man of the Year Award. To top Wayne’s accomplishment, Lex begins a campaign for President – and to create the atmosphere for his type of fear-based politics, he recruits the Joker to perfect a Black LEGO Destructor Ray. While wreaking havoc on Gotham, Lex successfully destroys Batman’s technology – forcing the Caped Crusader to reluctantly turn to Superman for help.

LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite features the definitive voice of Lex Luthor, Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption, SpongeBob SquarePants), who set the standard for Luthor’s vocal tones in the
landmark Warner Bros. Animation television production, Superman: The Animated Series.

Renowned videogame/animation actors Troy Baker (Bioshock Infinite, Batman: Arkham City) and Travis Willingham (Avengers Assemble, The Super Hero Squad Show) provide the voices of Batman and Superman, respectively. The cast also includes Christopher Corey Smith (Mortal Combat vs. DC Universe) as the Joker, and Charlie Schlatter (Diagnosis Murder) in a hilarious turn as the voice of Robin.

Award-winning director/producer Jon Burton helms the film from a screenplay by David A. Goodman based on a story from Burton and Goodman. Jeremy Pardon is director of photography, and executive producers are Jill Wilfret and Kathleen Fleming. Executive producers are Benjamin Melnicker and Michael Uslan.

LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite packs the right combination of action and humor to delight superhero fans from ages 3 to 103,” said Mary Ellen Thomas, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Vice President, Family & Animation and Partner Brands Marketing. “We’re proud to provide a film that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike, making for ideal family entertainment.”

LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite Blu-ray™ Combo Pack has over 2 ½ hours of exciting content, including:
•       Standard and high definition versions of the feature film
•       UltraViolet™*
•       Featurette – “Building Batman” – An all-new featurette.  Ever thought about making your own batman movie? Join a group of children as they learn from master LEGO builder Garrett Barati, and animate their own Batman mini-movie with LEGO.
•       Teaser– “Lego Batman Jumps Into Action” – Garrett Barati’s original Batman teaser, created for LEGO Super Heroes, shows what this master stop-motion animator can do with just a few click, click, clicks of LEGO.
•       Shorts – “LEGO/DC Universe Super Heroes Video Contest Winners” – The excitement of DC Universe Super Heroes and the joy of LEGO building brings together action-packed short films from five winning submissions
•       Two bonus episodes from Batman: The Brave and the Bold (“Triumvirate of Terror” and “Scorn of the Star Sapphire”) and one episode from Teen Titans (“Overdrive”)
•       Assorted trailers

Superman Unbound Details Released

SupermanThe trailer for this May’s release was missing from The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 but was subsequently released online. Now come the complete details of the next direct-to-DVD film from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

The fun vocal casting takes television stalwarts from popular genre series and uses them in other iconic roles. Here is the complete press release.

BURBANK, CA (February 21, 2012) – A destructive force is devastating planets across the galaxy – with Earth next in its sights – and even Superman may not be capable of halting the terror in SUPERMAN: UNBOUND, the next entry in the ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original Movies. Produced by Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation, the all-new, PG-13 rated film arrives May 7, 2013 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment as a Blu-ray™ Combo Pack ($24.98 SRP) and DVD ($19.98 SRP), On Demand and for Digital Download. The Blu-ray™ Combo Pack will include UltraViolet™*.

Superman UnboundBased on the Geoff Johns/Gary Frank 2008 Action Comics storyline “Superman: Brainiac,” SUPERMAN: UNBOUND finds the Man of Steel aptly handling day-to-day crime while helping acclimate Supergirl to Earth’s customs and managing Lois Lane’s expectations for their relationship. Personal issues take a back seat when the horrific force responsible for the destruction of Krypton – Brainiac – begins his descent upon Earth. Brainiac has crossed the universe, collecting cities from interesting planets – including Supergirl’s home city of Kandor – and now the all-knowing, ever-improving android has his sights fixed on Metropolis. Superman must summon all of his physical and intellectual resources to protect his city, the love of his life and his newly-arrived cousin.

The film’s stellar voicecast is led by Matt Bomer (White Collar) as Superman, John Noble (Fringe, The Lord of the Rings films) as Brainiac, Stana Katic (Castle) as Lois Lane and Molly Quinn (Castle) as Supergirl. Additional voices in the cast include Golden Globe Award winner Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under) as Ma Kent, Wade Williams (The Dark Knight Rises) as Perry White, Diedrich Bader (The Drew Carey Show, Office Space) as Steve Lombard, Stephen Root (Boardwalk Empire, Justified) as Zor-El, and Alexander Gould (Weeds) as Jimmy Olsen.

Supervising Producer James Tucker (Justice League, Batman: The Brave and the Bold) also directs the film from a script by Bob Goodman (Warehouse 13, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns).

SUPERMAN: UNBOUND adds an all-new chapter to the growing legacy of animated films featuring the Man of Steel and his epic challenges to maintain peace on Earth,” said Mary Ellen Thomas, Warner Home Video Vice President, Family & Animation and Partner Brands Marketing. “Matt Bomer’s voice epitomizes the All-American hero that is Superman, and John Noble counters that tone with a commanding, chilling delivery for Brainiac. A superhero is only as good as the depths of his opposition, and Noble brings out the best in his villainous portrayal of Brainiac.”

Lois LaneSUPERMAN: UNBOUND Blu-ray™ Combo Pack has over 4 1/2 hours of exciting content, including:

  • Standard and high definition versions of the feature film
  • UltraViolet™*
  • Sneak Peek at Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, the next DC Universe Animated Original Movie
  • Featurette – “Kandor: History of the Bottle City” – An all-new featurette. Kandor: a peaceful scientific community dedicated toward the preservation of all that is good on Krypton, the home world of Superman.  That is, until the city was ripped from its world and placed into a small glass bottle!  This is the short story highlighting the shrunken city of Kandor.  Its history just as fascinating as it is unique, here is how it ties in directly with the Man of Tomorrow.
  • Featurette – “Brainiac: Technology and Terror” – An all-new featurette.  Mostly machine, but part sentient being, Brainiac steals cities and destroys worlds.  Is he the most vile of Superman’s villainous foes?  Experience the Brainiac mythology and find out why Superman barely stands a chance!
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring members of the creative team: Mike Carlin, Bob Goodman and James Tucker.
  • Four bonus episodes from Superman: The Animated Series (“The Last Son of Krypton, Part 1”; “New Kids in Town”; and “Little Girl Lost, Parts 1 & 2”), all handpicked by producer Alan Burnett.
  • Digital Comic – Excerpt from the graphic novel Superman: Brainiac by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank.

* Spuerman: Unbound  UltraViolet offer is a limited time offer.  Restrictions and limitations apply.  Go to ultraviolet.flixster .com/info for details.

Mike Gold: Joe Kubert, Personally

One of the hardest questions for me to answer begins with the phrase “What is your favorite…?”

My Top 10 movie list has over 100 movies on it. My Top 10 television shows list must first be categorized: is it fair to compare Rocky and Bullwinkle to The Prisoner? Well, maybe that’s a bad example, but I think you get my point. If you were to ask me to name my favorite musician, I’d go into a fugue state and you’d get scared and leave.

There is one exception. If you were to ask me who my favorite comics creator is – and you were to ask me this question at any time in the past half-century – I would immediately and firmly respond “Joe Kubert.”

As we reported, Joe died Sunday evening. It was one of those moments when time… simply… stopped. For the past decade I’ve been in amazement that Joe was still giving us a graphic novel and a mini-series or special or something every year. Jeez, if I make it to 85 (and I’m nowhere in as good a shape as Joe was) I’m planning on lying there bitching until somebody changes my Depends. Joe was still at it, producing great stuff.

I was fortunate to know both Joe and his wife Muriel (predeceased by four years); Muriel knew the depths of my affection for her husband’s work, Joe knew it as well and was quite gracious but, as to be expected from an artist of his caliber, I could tell he wasn’t connecting with my praise for something he had finished months ago. He already was on to the next thing. Or maybe the one after that.

When I first started working at DC Comics back in 1976, my office was two doors down from Julius Schwartz. Denny O’Neil had the office next to me. Joe Orlando – Joe Orlando! – was a few doors down from that. And, three days a week, there was Joe Kubert. The best of the best.

I was a 26 year-old fanboy and if I wasn’t breathing I would have thought I had gone to heaven.

Kubert had been my favorite comics creator since the day my mother bought me Brave and the Bold #34, cover-dated February-March 1961. It featured the debut of the silver age Hawkman. We were getting on Chicago’s L, headed towards the Loop for my first visit to the eye doctor. I was anxious to read the comic; it looked really cool. Exciting. Different. And new superheroes were few and far between in those days of buggy whips and gas lamps.

Of course, my eye doctor did what eye doctors do: she put those serious drops in my eyes and everything got all blurry and then she exiled me to the outer office while my pupils dilated to the size of manhole covers. I was told to sit there quietly for an hour. I was ten years old; the concept of “sitting quietly” was well beyond my understanding. Certainly, not with that awesome-looking comic book on my lap.

I tried to read it. My mother started to scream about how I’d permanently ruin my eyes. She was supportive of my reading comics, she just had odd theories about how I’d go blind. Being me, I continued to try to read the Hawkman debut but now more defiantly, with purpose and determination – despite the fact that each panel was more blurry than the previous. I went through that book several times, trying my damnedest to understand it. To see it.

The book was astonishingly great – a tribute to writer Gardner Fox and editor Julie Schwartz as well as to Joe. After I finally read the comic in focus, it was clear to me that it was worth all the effort. That’s probably what made me a Joe Kubert fan.

By 1976 I had learned first-hand that a lot of the public figures I admired weren’t really worthy of such tribute on a personal level; if you were going to meet a lot of celebrities, you had to learn how to divorce yourself from the person and remain married to that person’s work. This is a lot less the case in the comics field, I’m happy to report.

And it most certainly was not the case with Joe Kubert. We could be diametrically opposed on certain political and social issues, and we were, but it didn’t matter one bit. Part of that came from Joe’s upbringing in the Talmudic arts where discussion and debate is encouraged and honored. But most of that came from Joe’s simply being a great, great guy.

That’s what I have to say about Joe Kubert. He was a great, great guy.

Here’s what I have to say to Joe Kubert.

Thank you.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

 

REVIEW: Superman vs. the Elite

In the 1940s, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster produced a two-pager for Life that showed if the Man of Steel were alive, he’d grab Hitler and Mussolini and bring them to justice, saving countless millions of lives. A nice bit of wish fulfillment during World War II.

In the 1970s, comic book writers began exploring what it really means to have someone as powerful as Superman operating in a world much like ours. Writer Elliot S! Maggin was among the first to bring up this theme more than once and was followed in subsequent years by a variety of others, reflecting the different perspectives of the creators and tastes of the audiences.

Just in time for Action Comics’ 775th issue in 2001, Joe Kelly became the latest writer to tackle the concept. After all, the world’s problems — ethnic strife, religious warriors, belligerent regimes, and destruction of the eco-system – could be easily handled by someone with the powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. But, does any one person be he human or Kryptonian actually have the right to impose a singular will on billions? As the problems appear to multiple, the need for a simpler solution can be awfully appealing.

Enter the powerful telepath Manchester Black. Accompanied by three others, his Elite appeared to be the heroes a stressed world population desired, offering a clear alternative to the hands-off employed by the World’s Greatest Super-Hero. With Doug Mahnke’s powerful artwork, the story was a nice, modern day take on the recurring theme.

Now, Kelly has adapted that well-regarded story into a 72-minute animated film, the latest from Warner Premiere’s direct-to-video series based on the DC Universe. Superman vs. the Elite, coming Tuesday, breezily handles the themes with heavy doses of action and wanton destruction. The film more or less follows the comic although there are changes for the format including the early appearance of Dr. Light to show this is a DCU tale. The Atomic Skull is also used as the recurring threat that practically begs for an ultimate solution and is a nice thread carried through the tale.

The story moves well, thanks to director Michael Chang who demonstrated a great facility for action with the wonderful Batman: The Brave and the Bold. And for a change, I found the score, from Robert J. Kral, to be exceptionally good. I tend not to notice the animated scores but this one stood out which is more than I can say for the lousy character design work. For a story based on the ultra-realistic work from Mahnke, this is overly cartoony for the subject matter. Superman looks like he has a broken nose and every character, save Lois Lane, is just too cartoony for their own good. For some unknown reason, the producers seem to think they need to redesign the look of the characters for each feature, a decision I strongly disagree with.

A saving grace, though, is the dialogue. The characters demonstrate real personality with affection, snark, humor, and a distinct point of view and it makes me miss Kelly’s work on mainstream superheroics. As delivered by George Newbern and Pauley Parrette, you feel the love that binds Superman and Lois. Robin Atkin Downes as Black and Melissa Disney as Menagerie are also terrific.

In a world where Superman is the premier hero, but not the sole super-powered figure, the arguments on the central theme is incomplete. At one point he says to Lois that Black targeted him alone, obviously because he was first and is the most powerful of the bunch, but it’s a discussion that should be held between the JLA (representing the full heroic community) and the world, maybe via the United Nations. As a result, the final arguments between Superman and the angry, power-mad Black fall flat and feel incomplete.

The animated adventure comes complete with the usual assortment of extras, although I’ve come to miss the DC Showcase shorts, often better than the lead feature. The commentary from Kelly and Eddie Berganza, the editor of the original story, is interesting, especially when Berganza questions Kelly about some of the choices he made in writing the animated script. There’s a 15 minute as Kelly discusses the Elite’s in-print appearances which is vaguely interesting but also incomplete as it doesn’t really give you a sense of their flash-in-the-pan role in the DCU (in fact, the two volumes collecting their Justice League Elite maxiseries are currently out of print). A variety of talking heads, including a soldier, academics, and animation exec Mike Carlin also explore the themes raised by the story, making for an interesting, if a little dry, featurette. The original comic is on hand in digital form although it’s a little tough to read and navigate but it reminds me of how powerful the art was, emphasizing the story’s point. Finally, there are some selected Superman Adventure cartoons from producer Alan Burnett and a 15 minute preview of this fall’s The Dark Knight Returns Part 1. Given the timing, it’s interesting to see a photo gallery for next month’s The Dark Knight Rises but no trailer for it.

Overall, this is an above average offering, the fourteenth from Warner Animation, and makes for entertaining viewing. The distracting character designs should be forgiven since it tells a story with a strong narrative point of view, something missing from too many of the others.

Mike Gold: Truth, Justice, and Spinelessness

Just as life is drifting into a lull, I can always count on Fox News to provide entertainment by going disproportionately apeshit. Case in point:

DC Comics made a big whoopdeedoo about one of their top characters coming out of the closet. Immediately, our friends at Fox said “It’s the end of the world! Superman is gay! Superman is gay!”

They were subsequently told Superman is not gay. Don’t tell Rick Santorum, but that caped dude Lois Lane’s been sleeping with is actually a strange visitor from another planet.

So Fox thought about it for a nanosecond and started braying “It’s the end of the world! Batman is gay! Batman is gay!”

They were subsequently told Batman is not gay. Perhaps they were also informed that psychiatrist Fredric Wertham beat them to that bullshit story over 60 years ago.

DC finally came clean and, as you undoubtedly know – particularly those of you who have been to your friendly neighborhood comic shop today – it’s Green Lantern who is gay. No, not the guy from last year’s unwatchable movie or the guy from this year’s better-than-expected CGI teevee series, not the black guy who was in the Justice League teevee show and has his own comic book and has been around for several decades, and not the guy with the Moe Howard reject haircut who was in the Brave and the Bold teevee show and also has his own comic book. Nor is it one of the hundred thousand or so space alien Greens Lantern. Nope. None of them.

It’s Alan Scott. The original Green Lantern. So original he predated the Green Lantern Corps by almost 20 years. The old dude who was ret-conned out of existence last year. Now he’s been reintroduced as a gay man.

The story received some press, much of it just shy of ridicule. Each piece I read was careful to point out that Alan Scott was not the guy in the comic books or in the movie. Each piece I read tried to justify its newsworthiness but came short. For good reason.

Showing the fourth-string (at best) Green Lantern to be gay is less than no big deal. Hal Jordan, yes. That would be a big deal. Barry (Flash) Allen, certainly. Wonder Woman, absolutely. Any one of what Warner Bros. refers to as the “family jewels” would have been newsworthy.

Gay characters in comics are no big deal. We introduced an ongoing, major gay character in Jon Sable Freelance in the early 1980s; having super-macho Sable deal with the revelation was unique for its time. A few years later, Marvel’s Northstar came out. Not a household name (nor was Alpha Flight – but the X-Men were), but a big deal for the time. Last week, Northstar got engaged, which was pretty cool. Over at Archie Comics, they introduced a gay character that Veronica Lodge fell for. That was an amazing story, a very courageous move for Archie because it is almost totally dependent upon newsstand sales and therefore was taking a risk of tainting its brand. Quite the opposite happened: Kevin Keller graduated from supporting character to mini-series star to his own title, all within a year.

In the face of growing acceptance of same-sex relationships, DC revealed its spinelessness by outing a character few people have heard of (you’d have to have been collecting social security for years for you to have been a reader of All-American Comics) and even fewer people care about. There was no risk of an Alan Scott movie or television series, no action figures at Toys R Us or Wal-Mart, no ancillary revenues put in jeopardy.

This is not a knock on the creative talent involved: James Robinson has been one of the best writers practicing the craft today and he’s held that status in my fanboy brainpan for quite a while. I don’t know if Alan Scott’s still got those kids; there’s no reason why he shouldn’t but that would show more guts than DC has offered thus far.

It is not DC Comics’ job to bring truth and justice to the American way. But making such a big deal over such a small event is just pandering.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil talks comics’ survival

 

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: Batman Versus Spider-Man

In honor of Marvel’s next big event, I’ve decided to take a week off of thinking hard. Instead I’ll do what they’re doing: Wasting your time by forcing two characters to fight for your entertainment.

Of course I don’t have the resources to produce artwork. Nor do I have the time to create an actual script. Instead, I’ll just take this idea to a few different levels, and ultimately create enough sweeping declarations to get some beautifully angry comments. I love beautifully angry comments.

In this corner: Bruce “The Rich Kid” Wayne and his amazing belt of knickknacks! That’s right, it’s everyone’s favorite powerless pugilist… the billionaire with bats in his belfry, The Batman!

And in this corner wearing skin-tight underwear and a mask without a mouth hole… Marvel’s favorite orphan, Peter “I was a jerk once, and I’m paying for it every day…” Parker! That’s right, it’s the web-slinging, science-spitting, devil-befriending behemoth… The Sensational Spider-Man!

Now there are a few ways to tally the fight. Since I’ve got inches of column to waste, let’s start with the obvious: In a street fight with absolutely no planning, Spider-Man would stomp Batman into a bloody pulp. Bats may have one of the greatest minds in comics, but at the end of the day, no amount of gadgets and Kevlar will out-match a fighter like Spider-Man. Not only is Spidey more agile, he’s also got superior strength and maneuverability. Batman can use all the kung fu in his repertoire, but Spider-Man has the actual super-powers.

I will concede this though: if these two were pitted against one another and had any chance to plan the bout, Batman would knock Parker out like the Orkin Man. Batman’s tactics, gadgets, and ability to use his terrain to his advantage trumps Spider-Man’s physical prowess. And while Spidey is a super-genius… a brilliant fighter he is not. Simply put, with any amount of time to prepare, Brucey’s coming out bruised but boastful.

Fan-service aside, how about we put these two against one another by way of the TeeVee. On the silver screen, Bats takes the trophy. Spider-Man had a few live action cameos on the Electric Company, and a simply too-terrible-to-believe live action show. Batman had Adam West. And you can say what you want about those kooky cavalcades with Burt Ward… but the zeitgeist here nods towards the cape and cowl when it comes to overall quality. Somedays, you just don’t have a place to throw a bomb.

When the battle gets animated, that’s really where Spidey gets killed. Not for lack of trying. The late 60s gave us a decent Spider-Man cartoon. Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends was… a larf. In the 90s Fox Kids gave us a series that started strong, but became hampered by way-too-long season arcs, and an entirely forgettable last season – that saw the trope of guest stars used piss-poorly. In the mid-late-aughts the Sensational Spider-Man was fantastically done, but cut way too short. In contrast, Batman started slow (in the Super Friends, and then helping out Scooby Doo), but finished amazingly. Yeah The Batman in the early aughts was an atrocity, but Bruce Timm’s animated Batman Adventures wrote the bible on quality cartoons. And The Brave and the Bold was a campy trip that started off too-kiddie, but quickly found its footing in the hyper-kitsch fan-service delivery. By my count Bats wins by four Emmys.

OK, so Bat’s wins the battle of the silver screen. How about we take a trip to the movies? Consider my math: Spider-Man 1? A minus. Spider-Man 2? A solid A. Spider-Man 3? … D. Now over at the Batcamp, let’s take stock. The Adam West Bat-Movie? Don’t count. The Burton Bat-Films: B. The Schumaker Schlock? D… if I’m being nice. The Nolan-verse? Well, if there’s a grade above A, I’d give it. At the end of the day, there’s been more guano out there than there’s been Spider-poop. So I tip the hat to the wacky web-shooter in the battle of the big screen. And he can take that win to the sock-hop.

But how about where it really counts? On the page. I guess I’m sad to say I don’t have the proper license to weigh in on that particular bout. As I stated last week, my exposure to Spider-Man in comics-proper is poor at best. Admittedly I have a very extensive Bat-Collection, so I’m more than likely biased. Given my knowledge though of Spider-Man’s bullet-list of plot threads, I might still be inclined to tip the hat back to the Bat. He does have a few decades more history to draw on though, so it may very well be an unfair fight.

I will say this: In the time since my birth, Batman has had his back broken, his mantle stolen, his sidekick murdered, his life unraveled by several secret societies, his bastard son joining his menagerie, and has survived two or ten universal resets.

In that same amount of time, all I’ve really heard about Spider-Man that really stuck was that he nixed his marriage to Mary Jane to save Aunt May. And there was a clone saga people didn’t like. And he had an Iron-Spider suit. And a black suit. And a cosmic suit. And at some point was tied to an ancient race of animal totem warriors or something. In terms of only recognizable milestones (that haven’t been universally hated) … Batman would take the crown. Prove me wrong.

So there you have it. A few hundred words on an amazing battle. So it’s time for you weigh in. Was I too favorable to Time-Warner’s titan? Does Spider-Man have more going for him than a six-pack and a quip dictionary? Who has the better rogues gallery? Who has the better friends? Man, this could be a whole new column next week. I guess it depends on you, the gentle reader of my column.

At the end of the day, in the battle between Batman and Spider-Man? The winner is you.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander