I am sometimes mystified by Warner Animation. Back in January, possibly as a part of their Target deal which rolled out last summer, shopped were able to buy JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time. This stealth release received zero publicity and marketing but clearly the exclusive window has closed with the animated feature now available everywhere.
This is not the Justice League animated characters nor is it the New 52 animated reality; instead, it is some weird hybrid, an all-ages heroes versus villains romp done on the cheap. With the Legion of Super-Heroes’ foe the Time Trapper manipulating events, the Justice League of America — Superman (Peter Jessop), Wonder Woman (Grey DeLisle Griffin), Flash (Jason Spisak), Aquaman (Liam O’Brien), Batman (Diedrich Bader), Robin (Jack DeSena), Cyborg (Avery Kidd Waddell) — take on the Legion of Doom — Lex Luthor (Fred Tatasciore), Solomon Grundy (Kevin Michael Richardson), Black Manta (Richardson), Cheetah (Erica Luttrell), Bizarro (Michael David Donovan), Toyman (Tom Gibis), Captain Cold (Corey Burton), and Gorilla Grodd (Travis Willingham). So, if anything, this owes its pedigree to the defunct Super Friends (complete with wink and you miss it, cameos from Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog) and no other animated series.
Of course, if you use the Time Trapper, you need some Legionnaires so we see Dawnstar (Laura Bailey) and Karate Kid (Dante Basco) in the 31st Century, demonstrating the JLA’s influence through the ages.
It certainly smacks of Saturday morning fare given its brief, 54 minute, running time and the far more limited animation in comparison with the more sophisticated direct-to-home-video fare we’ve become accustomed to. They’ve done a fine job distancing themselves from such franchises as noted by the different, but serviceable vocal cast. The character designs remain top-heavy but at least the angular chins that drive me nuts are more traditionally square-jawed. The costumes are also modified with a dumb-looking utility belt on Batman.
Written by Michael Ryan and produced and directed by Giancarlo Volpe, this provides us with some quirky takes on the characterization but they move things along at a nice clip, even if there’s more action than characterization for my taste.
You get, appropriately, two bonus episodes: The All-New Super Friends Hour “The Mysterious Time Creatures” and Super Friends’ “Elevator to Nowhere”.
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.
Growing up, I always recognized that Ramona Fradon’s artwork was different, curvier and softer in many ways than Gil Kane or Carmine Infantino. But you couldn’t help but like her open, appealing storytelling and characters. Her artistic touch on Metamorpho and later Super Friends were perfect while she was badly miscast on things like Freedom Fighters and even selected issues of The Brave and the Bold.
From the legion of writers and artists working in the first two generations of comics, Ramona was one I had never had the chance to meet or speak with. It was therefore serendipitous when Dynamite Entertainment invited me to edit The Art of Ramona Fradon which is a visual showcase for her work and was an extended conversation between the artist and fellow creator Howard Chaykin. Chaykin spoke with her on numerous occasions and the raw transcript needed to be shaped which is what I did. But in researching her career, I realized there were pockets of work Howard never explored and other gaps that needed filling in. (And speaking of Chaykin, my overdue The Art of Howard Chaykin retrospective is finally on press and should be out in the spring.)
I was tasked with calling her myself and conducting a supplemental interview so I found myself spending about ninety wonderful minutes with Ramona last year. She was gracious and displayed a pretty good memory so those gaps filled in nicely.
It was easy, then, to take the various transcripts and edit it into a pretty coherent chronology of her life and career. The book took time to assemble given the hunt for illustrations from across her career but the work is done and I see it now being solicited in the current issue of Diamond reviews.
If you grew up on her work and want to get to know the artist, I strongly suggest you get this for yourself. I’m certainly proud of having worked on this, honoring Ramona and her work.
After the cut is the complete press release with additional details.
Long time fans of Metamorpho, Aquaman, Aqualad, Plastic Man, The Fantastic Four and Super Friends are quite familiar with the work of legendary artist, Ramona Fradon, but not until now will they know the whole story of Ramona’s incredible career in comics, as Dynamite Entertainment is pleased to announce the upcoming The Art of Ramona Fradon in stores on April 2012!
For the first time ever! The DEFINITIVE retrospective of Ramona Fradon’s career will be presented in The Art of Ramona Fradon. The Art of Ramona Fradon will be a hardcover book that highlights the magnificent career of the artistic legend, plus never-before-seen sketches.
Interviewed by legendary creator Howard Chaykin and featuring a forward by Walt Simonson, Fradon talks about her artistic career, accomplishments and creations from her early days at DC in the 1950’s to her later work on Marvel’s The Cat and Fantastic Four and DC’s Plastic Man, Freedom Fighters, Super Friends and more!
“I’ve never liked to see my work in print, but the way it’s presented in this book makes me feel proud,” says legendary artist Ramona Fradon. “The drawings are arranged so attractively on the pages that the not-so-good ones look good and the good ones look really good. It covers so much of my career that there are things I barely remember doing, starting with an unpublished story strip I practiced on before I got into comics. It’s nice to see I’ve improved since then.”
“In an era when 99.99 % of American comic books were produced by a male talent pool, and very few women worked in the field–mostly as writers, and mostly producing work of no particular interest or engagement,” says Howard Chaykin. “The truest exception to this reality is Ramona Fradon, an original, not to say eccentric talent, whose approach to comics was so idiosyncratic as to make her stand out from her peers, men and women alike–and it should be noted that her work, as influential as it’s been over these many years, remains personal, individual and inimitable.”
“I have known Ramona and loved her work forever. I started with Aquaman in the 1950s when I was a kid,” says Walt Simonson. “Ramona’s art wasn’t like anybody else’s work back then. Her design of the human figure, her slightly abstract and expressive faces, her crisp line, and her clear storytelling stamped her work with an individuality that was instantly recognizable.”
“It is an honor that we are able to present the life and art of Ramona Fradon in The Art of Ramona Fradon,” adds Dynamite Entertainment President and Publisher Nick Barrucci. “Ramona Fradon’s work has touched many creators, and I personally am a huge fan of her art. Ramona’s conversation with Howard Chaykin about her life’s-work makes this book a must-read for any Ramona Fradon fan and any fan of comics history!”
Ramona Fradon is an American comic book and comic strip artist. Her career began in 1950, when it was even more unusual for women to illustrate superhero comics. Fradon entered cartooning just after graduating from the Art Students’ League. Comic-book letterer George Ward, a friend of her husband (New Yorker cartoonist Dana Fradon), asked her for samples of her artwork to pitch for job openings. She landed her first assignment on the DC Comics feature Shining Knight. Her first regular assignment was illustrating an Adventure Comics backup feature starring Aquaman, for which she co-created the sidekick Aqualad.
Following her time with Aquaman, and taking a break to raise her daughter, Fradon returned to co-create Metamorpho, drawing four issues of the series. Her other work includes Super Friends, Freedom Fighters, Plastic Man, a variety of mystery stories, and an issue of the Fantastic Four!
In 1980, Dale Messick retired from drawing the newspaper strip Brenda Starr, and Fradon became the artist for it, until her own retirement in 1995. Fradon was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.
Join the conversation on Twitter with #RamonaFradon and on Dynamite Entertainment’s twitter page at http://twitter.com/DynamiteComics
Here’s a fun one you may not have seen: when Fisher-Price began to produce DC Comics characters in a kid-friendly toyline named after the Super Friends, a cartoon was created to package with the toys and to test the waters for a new TV series.
And these people had the right mindset. Take a look, and see if you fall in love in the first few minutes with Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, and Cyborg in… ah, but that would be telling. Just watch.
Brandon Vietti is just two weeks away from his solo directorial film debut with Warner Home Video’s looming release of Batman: Under the Red Hood, a dark, emotionally wrenching journey as Batman’s past and present collide.
James Tucker is enjoying another successful season producing the Warner Bros. Animation/Cartoon Network hit series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, a much lighter take on the Caped Crusader’s adventures
Ironically, the super hero roots of both contemporary animators can be found in the same content – Super Friends, the one-hour ABC series that began in 1973, inspiring generations of young imaginations and spawning numerous cartoon series sequels.
Warner Home Video and DC Entertainment will release Super Friends! Season 1 Volume 2 on DVD on July 20, 2010. Available for the first time since its debut in 1973, this highly-anticipated deluxe two-disc collector’s set features eight exciting one-hour episodes starring the most recognizable DC Comics super heroes and villains of all time.
Super Friends! Season 1 Volume 2 follows the adventures of Superman, Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman and Aquaman as they join forces to save the world from unthinkable disasters. This crime-stopping squad, along with heroes in training Wendy, Marvin and Wonder Dog, combine their special superhuman skills to defeat the evil villains at hand. The collection also features DC Comics favorites Plastic Man, The Flash and Green Arrow. Each hour is packed with timeless adventures of the universe’s greatest heroes as they pave the way for a brighter future.
Both Vietti and Tucker fondly recall the wide-reaching impact Super Friends had on their young lives.
For those who only knew the Justice League of America as the Super Friends must have been in for a rude awakening when they sat to watch the Justice League animated series with their kids. From 2001 through 2006, the Cartoon Network offered up what has since gone on to be recognized as the greatest comics adaptation of all time.
Super-heroes moving from the printed page to animated film have had a checkered path from Filmation’s 1966 [[[Superman]]] through Ruby-Spears’ 1988 effort with the Man of Steel. In between, there were some highlights such as 1968’s [[[Spider-Man]]] and some really low moments including the 1977 [[[Batman]]] show. The problem is that super-heroes need conflict in which to use their powers and abilities. With every passing year, parents fretted over the amount of violence their children were expose to, coupled with concerns over the kids imitating the exploits in real life and causing themselves harm.
Any super-hero in the 1970s and early 1980s found that they could no longer duke it out with villains and their powers were used instead to stop natural disasters or rescue the proverbial kitten stuck in a tree. Some shows rose above the restrictions and proved entertaining but largely they were weak and short-lived.
That all changed thanks to Tim Burton. His 1989 Batman feature film reminded audiences what was good about comic books and their heroes. It forced everyone to re-examine comic book adaptations and prompted Warner Bros. to try a new Batman animated series. In the hands of producers Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, they rewrote the rule book and produced an amazing series.
That in turn gave us Superman so it was logical to follow with the Justice League. Along with James Tucker, Dan Riba, Dwayne McDuffie and others, the JLA never looked better. Now, all 91 episodes are collected for the first time in a two volume tin boxed set and it’s a joy to behold.
Warner Home Video essentially took the season sets and repackaged them for Justice League: The Complete Series , so the discs are broken down by season and disc number while the accompanying booklets count the discs from 1-14, so you have to carefully count discs to find a favorite episode. One nice aspect is that all the original extras are therefore included so there’s a rich amount of material to sift through. Unique to this set, on sale Tuesday, is a 15th disc containing “Unlimited Reserve: Exploring the Depths of the DC Universe”, a 16 minute chat with the producers discussing the joys of adapting the comics for a new generation of fans.
The nicest thing about the show, as either [[[Justice League]]] or [[[Justice League Unlimited]]], is the fidelity it paid to the source material. Yes, they altered a great many things, but nothing felt gratuitously done. The heroes and villains looked and acted appropriately plus the comic book conventions of sub-plots and continuity carried over nicely. There was a strong emphasis on characterization, for all the players. As a result, many JLAers had nice arcs, notably [[[Wonder Woman]]] who went from rookie hero to a true Amazon Princess. Hawkgirl’s seeming betrayal and subsequent redemption played well, too.
There far more hits than misses and no doubt everyone has a favorite story or arc. The eight-episode arc of the League versus Cadmus holds up very well and shows many sides to the issue of, ahem, “[[[Who Watches the Watchmen?]]]” During this, the Question quickly becomes a major player and wonderfully used. Similarly, the League’s rejection of the Huntress or Captain Marvel’s resignation show that not everyone is cut out to be a hero or a team player. All the characters have distinct personalities, which was most welcome.
The show is crammed full of super-heroes drawn from throughout the entire DC Universe from Spy Smasher to Aztek. Just about everyone is superbly voiced from the familiar Kevin Conroy as Batman to Jeffrey Coombs as The Question. Guest voices are also welcome, with some sly winks from the producers such as Jodi Benson’s Aquagirl or The Wonder Years’ Fred Savage and Jason Hervey as Hawk and Dove.
This is most definitely worth owning or finding under your Christmas tree this season.
Ain’t It Cool News is reporting that the next direct-to-DVD DC Comics movie after the upcoming Superman/Batman: Public Enemies will be a new release titled Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, tentatively coming Spring 2010.
As you can glean from the title, it takes place on two different planet Earths: one protected by the Justice League, and one ruled over by the evil Crime Syndicate. When a heroic version of Lex Luthor steps over from that parallel Earth to ask the Justice League for help, a superhero fight breaks out. That last part is merely conjecture, but we’d put good money on it.
What we do know for sure is that Dwayne McDuffie, who masterminded the original Justice League cartoon and its Unlimited followup, will be writing the script, and that it’ll feature an all-star voice cast, including Gina Torres (Firefly) as Wonder Woman’s doppelganger Super Woman and James Woods (Ghosts of Mississippi, those episodes of Family Guy) as Good Lex Luthor.
Based on the image in the AICN article, this is NOT the DCAU Justice
League. Hal Jordan is Green Lantern and Wonder Woman is wearing the
costume from Lauren Montgomery’s WONDER WOMAN animated movie. If you
have some evidence for your assertion, please, give it up.
Well, everybody’s officially locked down for comments while promoting the current release of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. However, someone close to the production confirmed that this is not strict JLU continuity.
On the other hand, since this is dealing with alternate earths, things could be up for grabs– and in fifteen years or so, we’re going to need a “Crisis On Animated Earths” to reconcile this, New Frontier, Challenge of the Super Friends, Swamp Thing, WildC.A.T.S., Krypto the Superdog, and the Superman/Aquaman Hour.
In 1973, as most super-hero series faded from Saturday morning memory, ABC introduced the Justice League of America under the more kid friendly name [[[Super Friends]]]. Until 1986 the series evolved but continued to be a network fixture with one series break, absent the 1984-1984 season. It was at that point production company Hanna-Barbera had enough episodes stockpiled that they could offer them as a syndicated package that could be stripped, that is, run five days a week. ABC dropped the series that fateful season as opposed to being in theoretical competition with itself. H-B, though, continued to produce 24 more shorts, or eight half-hours worth of programming which aired on schedule in Australia and was later sprinkled in the [[[Superman/Batman Adventures]]], which ran on USA starting in 1995.
Now, for the first time, Warner Home Video has collected these “lost” episodes on a two-disc set, coming this Tuesday.
They could have saved themselves the trouble. At its geekiest, Super Friends put DC’s greatest heroes on display for a wider audience and kids could thrill to seeing their favorites in action. With every passing year, the format was altered so heroes and villains came and went, the concept varied and the sidekicks changed. Wendy and Marvin gave way to Zan and Jayna, aliens with their own powers. In both cases, they were added on for audience identification purposes and moronic comic relief.
By 1983, though, children’s animated fare had been bowdlerized by nervous networks and advertisers, afraid children would be incited to commit hazardous acts of violence if the adventures grew too action-packed. As a result, the heroes and villains couldn’t make much contact with one another, limiting much of the storytelling options. Apparently, internal logic, the laws of physics and characterization were also verboten.
The 24 shorts presented here display shoddy animation, poor voice casting, and horrific writing. It should be pointed out that in 1981 we got [[[Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends]]], which did a far better job in the writing department; raising the bar H-B seemed disinterested in reaching.
The wonderful Alex Toth designs for the heroes never extended to the villains or the aliens du jour so they looked silly and largely unmenacing. The H-B created ethnic heroes had powers that didn’t match their names or personalities and were a poor fit (and really, was Black Vulcan that much better a hero than Black Lightning?). At their best, these stories mixed and matched the heroes allowing no more than a few to work together in any one story. At their worst, we had Flash racing through space with nothing for his feet to touch or a spacesuit to provide him with oxygen (his protective aura works only so far). Superman seemed to find kryptonite to weaken him wherever he went and in one instance he traveled back in time and rescued his Superboy self without once explaining how that could work. Perhaps the dumbest move was when the entire JLA had a meeting and entrusted the Hall of Justice’s security to the teens.
The Legion of Doom make token appearances here and are thoroughly inept, standing around, practically begging to be captured. One adventured used Mr. Myxzptlk which was diverting but no other enemies from the comics were used, which was a real shame since many could have been substituted for the poorly conceived threats. A number of stories involved youngsters and teens showing just how stupid they could be and acting anything but like youngsters and teens.
Perhaps the best thing about the discs are the two downloadable issues of the far superior Super Friends comics. You get the first issue, from E. Nelson Bridwell and Ramona Fradon plus the 7-page story by ENB and the late, great Toth.
Warner Home Video has announced a January 27 release for All-New Super Friends Hour – Season 1, Volume 2. The 32 adventures will appear on a two-disc set retailing for $26.99.
The All-New Super Friends Hour immediately resonated with fans and became a huge ratings success for ABC. Using combined powers, cunning and wit, the Super Friends fight for truth and justice and save the day with the reminder that good will always triumph over evil. Each thrill-packed hour includes four exciting and suspenseful episodes as the Super Friends battle unthinkable dangers. Interactive segments with magic tricks, health and safety tips and puzzles, are just a few cool extras that this thrilling collection boasts!
DVD special features include:
"The Wonder Twins Phenomenon" – Over 20 minutes of bonus content with segments exploring Zan and Jayna’s impact on pop culture.
"The All-New Super Friends Hour – Season 1, Volume 2 is yet another electrifying installation to one of DC Comics’ most beloved series," said Amit Desai, WHV Vice President of Family, Animation & Sports Marketing. "Warner Home Video is thrilled to provide fans with 32 action-packed episodes of the Super Friends on their quest to save humanity."
A variety of sources are reporting that Dave Stevens, creator of The Rocketeer, passed away yesterday after a long battle with leukemia.
Stevens’ resume also included work on the Russ Manning Tarzan comics and newspaper strip, as well as Marvel Comics’ Star Wars series in the mid-’80s. Stevens provided storyboards and layouts for the Super Friends and Godzilla cartoon series while working at Hanna-Barbera, but is best-known for his work on The Rocketeer, which he created. The series was published at various points by Eclipse Comics, Comico Comics and later by Dark Horse Comics, and eventually made into a feature film by Disney.
His widely praised style of pin-up art, featuring 1950s-era models such as Bettie Page, is credited as igniting a renewed interest in the fashion and beauty of the period.
Dave was truly one of the nicest people I have ever met in my life…and was certainly among the most gifted. Our first encounter was at Jack Kirby’s house around 1971 when he came to visit and show Jack some of his work. As I said, Kirby was very encouraging and he urged Dave not to try and draw like anyone else but to follow his own passions. This was advice Dave took to heart, which probably explains why he took so long with every drawing. They were rarely just jobs to Dave. Most of the time, what emerged from his drawing board or easel was a deeply personal effort. He was truly in love with every beautiful woman he drew, at least insofar as the paper versions were concerned.