Tagged: Cartoon Network

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Tweeks WonderCon 2014 Report!

320230__safe_twilight+sparkle_comic_crossover_princess+twilight_winona_artist-colon-karpet-dash-shark_dog_littlest+pet+shop_twily-dash-daily Our dynamic duo hit up WonderCon in Anaheim this past weekend  repping their fangirl geekdom and will not be deterred by the chauvinist backlash currently creeping in some corners of comic culture. Also, they give quick definitions of what cons and cosplay are for the muggles in their audience.

REVIEW: Green Lantern the Animated Series

GL Animated SeriesWarner Bros. was counting on a home run from the misfire that was the live action Green Lantern film. As that film was in production, the animation division was producing their first CGI-animated DC series, also featuring the hero of space sector 2814. Arriving on the Cartoon Network with much fanfare, the Green Lantern: The Animated Series ran from November 11, 2011 to March 16, 2013 for a total of 26 episodes. I disliked its look and found little reason to watch when it was apparent it had little resemblance to the source material. I gave it a second look when Warner Archive recently released the entire series as a 2-disc Blu-ray set. I have not changed my opinion.

The series immediately takes Hal Jordan (Josh Keaton) away from Earth and his sector to send him to “Frontier Space” and establishes the Guardians of the Universe actually have limits to their sphere of influence which makes little sense. He’s partnered with Kilowog (Kevin Michael Richardson), who apparently is no longer needed to train recruits and they jet around space in a spaceship, The Interceptor, which also makes no sense. The ship comes complete with an artificial intelligence, Aya (Grey DeLisle), who takes humanoid form and as she gains independence actually goes from ally to threat in one of the few interesting touches in an otherwise wretched series.

Why are Hal and Kilowog dispatched to the edge of space? Because Red Lanterns, led by Atrocious (Jonathan Adams), are picking off these fringe GLs as an act of revenge for his homeworld being destroyed by the Manhunters. During one of their first encounters, Razer (Jason Spisak) abandons the Reds and accompanies the Corps aboard the Interceptor. The series also features various familiar Guardians and members of the GL Corps.

And just to keep things colorful, we get a bunch of Blue Lanterns, Star Sapphires, and good ol’ Larfleeze (Dee Bradley Baker) of the Orange Lanterns. The relationship between Carol Ferris (Jennifer Hale) and Hal is as tense as in the comics but doesn’t really make either character more interesting. In fact, the writing is perfunctory and not very interesting and it could be the unfamiliarity of the writing staff led by Michael F. Ryugan, Jeremy Adams, and Jim Krieg. Milestone and DC Animated writer Matt Wayne is the only comic veteran on hand.

I will credit the final episode, “Dark Matter” as a cosmic adventure that does a good job raising the stakes but it’s too little, too late.

I love Green Lantern and he’s probably my favorite of the DC heroes which may be why I am so hard on this series and the film. Such incredible potential is continually squandered.  Of late, the various incarnations are so busy being sweeping in scale while leaving characterization in the dark.

The transfer to Blu-ray is excellent with great audio and video. Being from Warner Archive, there are no extra features.

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Review: “Adventure Time” Volume 4

Adventure Time has a history of uncommonly dark world building, and as anyone who’s seen the episode “I Remember You” will attest, it doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to gut-wrenching backstories. Fans expect the show to push boundaries. The comics are no exception: they seem sometimes to be a vehicle for character exploration too troubling for television.

Volume Four collects issues 15 through 19 of the celebrated tie-in series. Its primary storyline is an examination of the ambiguously sympathetic villain, the Ice King. Ice King’s magical abilities include ice spells (obviously) and being woefully pathetic, but in his deluded internal narrative he is a heroic figure. Adventurers Finn & Jake take pity on him and they team up for a quest through a dungeon that the Ice King no longer remembers creating, battling magical creatures that are representative of his numerous insecurities. Along the way, the reader gleans insight into Ice King’s tragic past, though Finn and Jake remain preoccupied with battling gibbering cartoon beasties.

As they progress through the dungeon and the reader is drawn inextricably into Ice King’s suffering and confusion, the adventurers grow sad without understanding why. The story plays into a conceit deployed in the show’s more dramatic episodes. Though the reader is presented with enough information to piece together the disturbing implications of the story, its two protagonists are action-focused and happily oblivious. The hints that the land of Ooo is a post-apocalyptic wasteland, the Lovecraftian horror of the undead Lich and the Ice King’s fight to retain his humanity and remember those he once loved are plot elements that only impact the reader. Finn and Jake remain perpetually sunny and relatively innocent. They are caught up in events larger than they are comfortable with: Finn and Jake because they are action heroes, and Ice King because his memory is failing. It is no coincidence that a significant plot point is a quote from one of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s darkest poems, “Behold, we know not anything”.

If that sounds lofty and unsettling enough for you, Adventure Time Vol. Four is worth a look. There are also some pretty radical monsters to fight, and one particularly gruesome reveal that made me shudder. Writer Ryan North’s offbeat, on-point humor is never absent for long, and each page has a tiny line of commentary at the bottom for those of us who miss the alt-text experience when reading print media. (If his name sounds familiar, it’s because of Dinosaur Comics!) He tells an ambitious tale, sure to please avid Adventure Time viewers and those who just love a good story.

Here’s a preview:

REVIEW: Uncle Grandpa – “Good Morning!”

Cartoon Network’s Uncle Grandpa, seen here with Pizza Steve, Gus, and Giant Realistic Flying Tiger.

Artist Willy Elder called it “chicken fat” – the extra background gags he’d cram into his art for Mad, Little Annie Fanny, and elsewhere.  He described it as “The part of the soup that is bad for you, but where all the flavor is.” Cartoon Network’s new Uncle Grandpa is slopping over with “chicken fat”, but manages not to drown in it. It successfully answers the question, “What if Mary Poppins were not only male, but an idiot”?

A spin-off from Peter Browngardt’s previous effort, Secret Mountain Fort Awesome, the title character is described as “Everybody in the world’s Uncle and Grandpa”, a magic character that drives around in an enchanted RV with his compatriots Gus the world’s strongest monster, Pizza Steve (a sentient slice of pizza) and Giant Realistic Flying Tiger (who does what it says on the tin).  He drops into children’s lives and takes them on mad adventures, usually depositing them back home with lessons learned, that lesson usually being “Do not go on mad adventures with Uncle Grandpa”.  The show has the same “anything can happen” feel as many of Cartoon Network’s recent outings like Adventure Time and Chowder (on which Peter served as a storyboard artist), with a more unabashedly silly bent.

The character design is much cleaner than the camp-grotesque style of both Fort Awesome and the pilot episode he did as part of the Cartoonstitute. Like Chowder, the show features various animation techniques – Giant Realistic Flying Tiger is animated with paper cutouts of photos of real tigers. It skewers many kids’ show contrivances while still zealously clinging to them. Uncle Grandpa’s talking belly bag is a clear shot at Dora the Explorer’s backpack.

The show follows CN’s new 15-minute format, with each episode featuring two cartoons, a 9-minute main adventure and a two-minute backup.  The show is packed from stem to stern with crazy, with so much going on you’ll need to rewind and check on it all.

Uncle Grandpa runs Mondays at 8PM on Cartoon Network.

Win a Copy of LEGO STAR WARS: The Empire Strikes Out

EmpireDomesticFilled with charm, action and irreverent humor this original story features characters, locations and vehicles across the entire LEGO Star Wars universe including Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, C-3P0, R2-D2, Darth Maul, and more.   When the premiere of LEGO Star WarsThe Empire Strikes Out aired on Cartoon Network, it became the number-one telecast of the day with kids ages 6-11 and boys ages 2-17. Written by Emmy Award winner Michael Price (The Simpsons), the show features many of the beloved Star Wars voice-actors fans know and love including Anthony Daniels, Sam Witwer, Ahmed Best and more.

Thanks to our friends at Lucasfilm we have two copies of the DVD to give away.

SYNOPSIS:

HOLD ON TO YOUR BRICKS….FOR AN ALL-NEW ANIMATED ADVENTURE!

Your favorite characters are back to save the galaxy in LEGO® Star Wars®: The Empire Strikes Out™. The heroes of the Rebel Alliance including heroic Luke Skywalker, swaggering Han Solo and steadfast Princess Leia have no time to celebrate their victory over the Empire as a new Imperial threat arises. But as Jedi-in training Luke embarks on this next mission, he discovers that his celebrity status as a “Death-Star-Blower-Upper” can be a double-edged lightsaber when he’s constantly mobbed by crazed fans. So much for secret missions! Meanwhile, Darth Vader and Darth Maul are locked in a hilarious “Sith-ling” rivalry as they compete for the Emperor’s approval. It’s an action-packed comic adventure that’s out of this world!

In order to win your very own copy of LEGO Star WarsThe Empire Strikes Out on DVD, simply answer the following question. Your answer must be submitted by 11:59 p.m., Thursday, March 28, 2013. The judgement of ComicMix will be final.

What television network did LEGO Star WarsThe Empire Strikes Out premiere on? 

  • Cartoon Network
  • Nickelodeon
  • ABC Family
  • The Disney Channel

REVIEW: “The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley” is as fun as fun can be, I must say.

God bless the deranged maniacs at the Warner Archives and their desire to not let anything be forgotten.  As part of their exponentially-growing manufacture on demand DVD program, they’ve added to their already impressive list of animated releases with a 2-disc release of Hanna-Barbera’s The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley.

Martin Short has had a wide and varied career in comedy, and inamongst appearing on SCTV, Saturday Night Live and his film career, he created a character named Ed Grimley.  Formed from equal parts of sight gags from his SCTV days and a voice he used to do to annoy his wife, Ed caught on with America during Short’s SNL run.  When NBC and Hanna-Barbera looked for a way to compete with CBS’ Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, the hyperkinetic Mr. Grimley was tailor-made.

Featuring a mini-reunion of the SCTV gang, the series features Martin in the titular (a word you want to hear more often, and so seldom do) role, with Andrea Martin and Catherine O’Hara, with Joe Flaherty reprising his SCTV creation Count Floyd.  Jonathan Winters rounded out the crew, adding in his comedy genius.

The comparison to Pee-Wee is easy to make on the surface, but at its base, Ed’s show was a surreal take on a sitcom, as opposed to the kids show parody of Mr. Herman.  Ed has no desire to find adventures; he’s more than happy practicing his triangle and enjoying the company of his neighbors at the palatial Freebus Arms.  But adventure seeks him out, and before you can say “Uncle Balfour’s favorite Mantovani record” he’s running n a horse race or getting a new identity after testifying in a robbery trial or being whisked to Kansas via a hurricane.

Ed Grimley was one of the last shows made at Hanna-Barbera before their purchase by Turner, and was one of its last truly original works.  With character work and story direction by Scott Shaw! the show had a unique voice that stood above the sadly dying world of Saturday Morning cartoons.  It’s popped back up on Cartoon Network on occasion, but thanks to Warner Archives, fans can get their triangle on whenever they please.

The 2-disc set is available from The Warner Brothers Shop.

Marc Alan Fishman: It Was Good While It Lasted…

Marc Alan Fishman: It Was Good While It Lasted…

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.

Why am I pouring out a forty? Well, it seems Cartoon Network has given the axe to both Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series. And kiddos? I’m depressed.

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.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander Types!

 

Mike Gold: Squeeze Batman Until He Bleeds!

Gold Art 130139

Pop quiz: Who’s that guy over to your left with the bowler hat and the two guns blazin’ away?

To nobody’s surprise, Cartoon Network (an arm of Time Warner) cancelled Young Justice and Green Lantern and will be replacing them next summer with an original cast return of Teen Titans and the long-lurking Beware The Batman. So here’s a clue: yes, that piece of art is from Beware The Batman.

OK, I’m a relic but I’m a relic who has a hell of a lot more than a passing familiarity with The Batman mythos, and a crucial part of that mythos, one of the only truly enduring parts of The Batman mythos, is his antipathy towards guns.

So it’s kind of surprising to see Batman’s butler Alfred being recast as – literally – an ex-secret agent who likes to run around doing the one thing that Batman – the “real” Batman – would never, ever do: run head-first into a situation with his two guns blazin’ away, presumably at the bad guys.

Hey, you know what they say. Guns don’t kill. Butlers kill.

Bats and Alfred aren’t alone in this new endeavor: Katana will bravely and boldly go where no ‘Toon has gone before. And if you think there will be a bed scene with Kat and Alfred, you’re thinking harder than they are.

Beware The Batman is produced by Warner Bros. Animation, which is part of Time Warner’s Warner Bros. division. DC Comics is also part of Time Warner’s Warner Bros. division. Some readers – including a ComicMix columnist or two – have suggested that perhaps Warner Bros. doesn’t have a clue about the DC properties, that they are only there to mold and reshape at will according to what some otherwise unemployable 23 year old thinks is cool at that moment in time.

This latest attempt to resurrect the success of the brilliant Batman Animated series from 20 years ago, evidently by people who either didn’t see it or didn’t understand it. The show will be featuring villains new to Batanimation although, again from the look of the promo art, they seem to be clones of the villains from Bob Clampett’s classic Warner Bros. cartoon The Great Piggy Bank Robbery. But I’ll bet the latest crop of Warner animators don’t know that. From watching their output, I doubt they even know of Bob Clampett.

Oh, yes. One exciting thing more. The press release claims Beware The Batman features “cutting-edge CGI visuals.” You mean, like Green Lantern did? Oh, wow.

DC Nation. Another banana republic, without the class or style.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

 

 

REVIEW: The Halloween Tree

When a literary giant dies, there’s a rush to rediscover the author’s works, delighting in old favorites or finally reading a work you have somehow missed. The passing of Ray Bradbury has prompted such a journey in print and in other media. Warner Archive, to their credit, has just released The Halloween Tree, the 1993 animated adaptation of his 1972 fantasy.

The 90-minute feature was adapted by Bradbury and directed by Mario Piluso, featuring the voices of Leonard Nimoy, Annie Barker, Darleen Carr, Lindsay Crouse, Alex Greenwald, and Bradbury himself as the narrator.

A small group of four children are out trick-or-treating one Halloween when one of them, Pip, goes missing. Checking his house, they learn he has been rushed off for an emergency appendectomy. Instead of  making their rounds without him, they determine to visit him instead at the hospital. Instead, they wander off their intended path and get lost. They then encounter Mr. Moundshroud (Nimoy) who explains he’s after Pip’s ghost and refuses to help the children since they are woefully ignorant of the true meaning behind Halloween. If they can keep up with him and his giant kite, they can accompany him and suddenly, they are taken 4000 years into the past. The bulk of the tale explores the Egyptian Book of the Dead, stop by Notre Dame Cathedral and its gargoyles followed by a trip to Mexico and their Day of the Dead, which is also where they finally catch up to Pip.

The animation design is adequate if uninspired but it does convey a nice sense of atmosphere, aided by the vocal cast, which does a nice job. Overall, this is something that should be in regular rotation alongside the annual Peanuts special so people can delight in Bradbury’s work and learn a little something, too. Rather than hope it gets rerun on the Cartoon Network, you might want to get this for your home collection.

You should seek out the 2005 edition of the book which has the “author’s preferred text” along with the screen adaptation script.