Tagged: Warner Bros

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

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




Warner Brothers ran the following ad in The LA Times to promote the upcoming film, Gangster Squad. We couldn’t help but notice it’s pulpy nature.

Gangster Squad chronicles the LAPD’s fight to keep East Coast Mafia types out of Los Angeles in the 1940s and 50s.

An elite police squad fights to save the city of Los Angeles from a power-hungry East Coast mobster in this gritty police-detective film set in the 1940s, and based on Paul Lieberman’s seven-part Los Angeles Times series “Tales From the Gangster Squad.” Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, and Ryan Gosling star in a film directed by Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland), and featuring Nick Nolte, Michael Peña, Emma Stone, and Robert Patrick.

Visit Gangster Squad’s official Facebook page here.

Gangster Squad is in theaters January 11, 2013.
Here’s the trailer.

Mike Gold: Must We, TV?

Gold Art 130102I was a little slow when it came to adopting television as a part of my lifestyle. I only cared about cartoons as a small child, and no wonder: teevee was mostly local and cheaply produced and all those public domain Fleischer and Warner Bros. cartoons were a delight. They still are. I didn’t get sucked into the mainstream until pre-adolescence.

When that happened, TV Guide was my bible. A digest-sized magazine that contained detailed descriptions of every local and network show to be aired in the following week, I, like my peers, pretty much planned our lives around the boob tube. The annual Fall Preview issue was a genuine event.

When it comes to broadcast entertainment today, TV Guide has become less than irrelevant – it’s useless. Cable has brought us so many channels if the magazine stuck to its original concept it would take a half hour to read the next 30 minutes of descriptions. The printed grid tells us nothing we can’t get from our cable grid. And the vaunted Fall Preview issue presumes the “new fall season” is unique. It is not. With the exponential growth of choice, “new seasons” come with each new season.

more important. I take the recommendations of my friends quite seriously – daughter Adriane is a constant source of advice, and I take heed at the recommendations of Martha Thomases and the other ComicMix crew (Martha makes one such nod this Friday; I’d link to it but it’s not Friday yet).

But if my jaded, tube-weary brainpan is capable of generating any excitement similar to that of the old new fall season, it happens right now, in January. Some of my favorites return this month: Justified, Community, Young Justice, Bill Maher. There are a number of promising-sounding shows such as Ripper Street, and before long we’ll have Louie, Hell On Wheels and Doctor Who back.

None of these (save Bill Maher) are what we used to think of as full-length series. We get maybe a dozen episodes of each annually. Even though each episode is played many times, teevee-watching isn’t quite the passive experience it once was.

All of this cable stuff already is being eclipsed by streaming media: Netflix and others have competitive original content, Apple has a box for sending stuff from a great many services (including, of course, its own) to the teevees in your house, and Intel is going to be rolling out an interesting new media box on a market-by-market basis starting soon. The larger cable companies have apps that allow you to pick up their service at home on your smartphones and tablets, and content suppliers such as HBO and the various networks allow you to steam their material to these same devices.

We’re probably just a heartbeat away from fulfilling the prediction made back in 1967 in the brilliant social satire, The President’s Analyst. Pretty soon we’ll just have a chip installed in our heads, and the fees will be debited to our bank accounts.

We don’t need drugs, alcohol or virtual reality. We have television.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil


Mike Gold: Violence and Comic Books

Are comic books too violent?

Sure, this is a question some will ask in the wake of a tragedy like last Friday’s massacre in Newtown Connecticut – and a question soon-to-be-ex Senator Joe Lieberman asks every day. But let me put aside my deep-seated prejudice against book-burners for the moment and tell you who else is asking this question right now.

DC Comics is asking this question. Actually, it’s asking the question “Are DC Comics too violent?” And that’s a valid question, as long as those asking it are aware that they’ve been continuing a trend of some decades and that there is no real evidence that there’s a causal link. But that DC name, now synonymous with Warner Bros, is right there on the cover… as well as on all those movies, profitable and otherwise. But movies are a horse of another color: for one thing, children actually go to movies.

Way back in the fall of 1976, DC Comics published Action Comics #466, pictured above. I ran it slightly larger than our usual graphics so you can see what I’m talking about. This was a somewhat controversial cover: several big-name creators found it abhorrent. They felt we shouldn’t beat up babies on the covers of DC Comics. (No, causing harm was what those old Johnson-Smith ads inside were for.) The story was reprinted in a trade paperback back in 2000.

But at that time I was DC’s entire marketing and publicity department, so publisher Jenette Kahn brought me in, showed me the cover, and asked what I thought. “Well, to be honest,” I said paraphrasing like hell, “I hadn’t noticed it as untoward when I first saw the cover several months prior to publishing. Now that you mention it, I see the point. It doesn’t offend me, but little does. Professionally, unless one of the nut-groups is having a slow day I doubt it’ll be a problem.” It wasn’t.

Jenette said it didn’t bother her either, but we had a nice conversation about limits. That’s a good thing to do from time to time, particularly if you’re in the media racket and you are dependent upon the pleasure of mom’n’pop store-owners.

But you can’t please everybody.

Given some of DC’s recent comics – and by “recent” I mean “at least since the time they broke Batman’s back” – one wonders how they will evaluate the standards. Note that the Comics Code Authority, the guardian of comic book morality and the exorciser of four-color excess, approved the above cover. Today such decisions are made where they should be, in-house.

If, by way of example, it is deemed the current Batman mega-arc “Death Of The Family” crosses that revalued line, would DC alter it for the trade paperbacks and omnibus editions? Or forgo these editions entirely? If not, well, so much for the new standards.

Which is OK by me, but it’s not my call. It’s been a while since I’ve been on their payroll and, knowing me as well as I do, were I still in editorial I’d be pushing those new limits right up to that “you’re meeting with Human Resources tomorrow morning” point. Hey, I’m a brat.

I’m not expressing concern or outrage, nor am I screaming censorship. It’s good for such concerns to evaluate and reevaluate their standards from time to time and, besides, as the great A. J. Liebling said, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil


Mike Gold: The Brass Ring Melts

We used to be the bastard child of our American culture.

We were embarrassed by our public image. As we aged, we demanded our pastime mature along with us. We started to infiltrate the means of production, bringing our all-important ideas and ideals along with us. After all, the comics field skipped a generation – few could enter a business that, in the 1950s, was rapidly shrinking. Besides, the Reader’s Digest and the Saturday Evening Post were painting comic book writers and artists as child pornographers. Better to write for the torrid magazines where buff, all-American manly men were saving all-American buxom brunettes from Uncle Joe Stalin and his legion of rodent-faced S & M fanatics, leaving the comics door open for those starry-eyed youngsters who knew no better.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and publishers facing diminished profits understood that our generation worked for a lot less money than the cranky old geezers who wanted to unionize. This same generation was also entering the rest of the public media. Together, we took pleasure in the modern media adaptations of our favorite characters because at least they took our childhoods seriously.

Then we got legitimate. It’s all Richard Donner’s fault. He made Superman – The Movie, the first massive attempt to portray the American comics medium as a serious, legitimate part of our cultural heritage. It was as successful as it was straight-forward, well-produced, well-acted, and well-written. Heroic fantasy took hold of a greater percentage our culture and hasn’t let go.

Comics were taken seriously. The stuff was taught in colleges and in art schools. A decade later Batman came out, upping the ante all the more. Then the Spider-Man movies, the X-Men, the Avengers Universe… Our pastime was generating more revenue in theaters and on television in two years than it had on the newsstands in the previous fifty combined.

And then the people who owned the movie studios that always offered style over substance – style über alles – began to understand there was money to be made in them thar hills. Talent was discounted as necessarily expensive bait. Warner Bros. realized they actually owned a major comic book company, a fact that was purposely kept mostly hidden from them for decades by that very comic book company. Disney understood that the House of Mouse lacked a relevance to the 21st Century audience and their subsequent creations, as popular as they were, weren’t the cultural icons that were found at the House of Ideas. So the Mouse bought them.

And now, more than ever, its employees are being treated as cogs in these massive corporate machines. They need to be oiled and dusted and maintained for a while, but you can replace any or all of the cogs without damaging the icons, without diminishing the shine on the family jewels.

And so we grieve and we fret each time another massively talented creator gets replaced. But that’s how it works in the legit world.

Always did, always will.

The moral of the story: don’t quit your day job.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil


I’m going to try a little “Super Best Friends Forever” experiment here…

Super Best Friends Forever

Warner Bros. have put out some fantastic shorts during their DC Nation programming block on Cartoon Network. They are evolving one of those into a series – Teen Titans Go! It’s almost a continuation of the old Teen Titans animated series but either way, sounds like fun. I know a lot of folks were hoping SBFF would also move on to a half hour series as well but from what I’ve been hearing, it’s not likely and my question is – why?

Warner Bros. don’t believe a “girls” show has the same selling power as a “boys” show and I’d like to prove them wrong. I’d point them to the huge successes that were Lauren Faust’s Power Puff Girls (EDIT for clarity, I know Craig McCracken created PPG, Faust also worked on the franchise. Sorry if I confused anyone!) and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic were, I’d tell them women make almost all the purchasing decisions for their household (specifically entertainment), that they are seriously underestimating how much parents spend on their daughters, and that children aren’t the only consumers of animated TV shows and their related products. I could do that but what I’d like to see right now is all of YOU do that.

Reblog or like this post if you’d not only watch a Super Best Friends Forever television show but buy products based on it. (Money talks, remember?) Add your own commentary or not but let’s see what the numbers say.

(Originally posted at The Bird And The Bat, whatcha think about that?)

Dark Knight Shootings — Update

Colorado officials state they believe James Holmes, 24, the man they charged with killing at least 12 people and wounding over 70 others at The Dark Knight Rises screening in Aurora acted alone. He was arrested minutes after the incident was phoned in wearing a helmut, a gas-mask and a bullet-proof vest and carrying two Glocks and rifle. Holmes’ hair was dyed red and referred to himself as “the Joker.” Whereas he offered no resistance and waited for the police near his car in the multiplex parking lot, Holmes’ apartment is heavily booby-trapped with incendiary devices and people living in his building and at least four other buildings have been evacuated.

The usual flame-throwers in the media responded in their sadly predictable manner. The Washington Examiner suggested the shooter was acting out a scene from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight comics. ABC suggested the shooter was a Tea Party member; they later recanted. Countless individuals are blaming the incident on a lack of appropriate gun control. Various police departments across the country have dispatched officers to ward against copycat killers, and Warner Bros. has withdrawn the trailer to their movie Gangster Squad, which was attached to The Dark Knight Rises.

Holmes had been in the University of Colorado’s neuroscience studies program studying towards his PhD. He was in the process of withdrawing from the program at the time of this incident.

Marc Alan Fishman: Lights, Camera, Inaction!

It was inevitable this week, now wasn’t it? All of us true-blue-comic-geeks are reveling in the acclaim and success The Avengers is enjoying. The critics generally liked it. Audiences are eating it up. Mark Ruffalo’s star is rising like Apple after the invention of the iPod. And comic book columnists are dancing in the aisles over it all. Michael Davis wrote a great piece on how the flick is a giant bitch smack to Bruce Wayne and his Brothers Warner masters.

Now I could suggest that, based solely on the sheer brilliance of Nolan’s Bat Films, our resident Master of the Universe (his phrase) isn’t exactly on the money… but why start a fire? Rather than blather for the sake of creating a phony flame war between the king of San Diego Con and this lowly Midwestern cracker, I’ll find my muse in Michael’s throwing of the gauntlet. It’s the idea we’re all thinking; DC could just copy Marvel’s blueprint and rake in the dough. But really, when we dissect that idea, this molehill quickly becomes a mountain. Where to begin? How about with the lynchpin – Superman.

Man Of Steel can set DC on the right path – or just nail the coffin closed. As many have seen with the various leaked set photos, and blurbs being dropped on the interwebs… the movie is assuredly in the vein of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, where realism is king. The men with the checkbook want results this time. No doubt that influenced all those in on the production to match the tone and soul of Nolan’s films. And the skeptics all agree, the blue Boy Scout should be as gritty as soft-serve and real as well… Superman!

Paul Dini, fifteen plus years ago, got it right. Based solely on some production stills, Zack Snyder isn’t paying attention. Granted I like Snyder a lot, but his last few cinematic efforts (Sucker Punch and the Watchmen) didn’t exactly incite waves of acceptance from the geek nation. It leads me to state the obvious: There’s only so much angst the fan base is willing to accept for the prodigal son of comic books as a whole. Simply put, Superman without a smile is indeed no Superman at all.

Think back, just a week ago, when you were watching The Avengers. Think how many times you laughed out loud, smirked, or just geeked out over a simple fight. Now think of Green Lantern. The proto-franchise out just one summer ago showed just how wrong DC “got it” when it came to the bridge between the pulp and the picture on the big screen. The movie was over-produced, under-written, and a pitiful invitation to celebrate the greater DCU. Don’t believe me? If that movie had lived up to its potential, mark my words, there would be no “New 52.” When Marvel launched the Avengers initiative, they did so with Iron Man. And that movie, nose to tail, was as good as Batman Begins. Hold that up to the boy in the green jeans? Don’t even try.

If DC intends to make their way into the arena to match The Avengers with a multi-franchise comic book based pantheon, they must be mindful of more than just the broad strokes. The House of Mouse was smart enough to hire genuinely good directors and writers to helm their pieces. They chose strong stars. Most important, they spent time developing stories that kept in mind plot, pacing, and fun… more than toy tie-ins. In order to match, or dare I suggest, beat Marvel at their own game, Warner Bros. needs to do more than throw money at the problem. At their very core, they need to trust DC with their product and presentation. That means when the screener gets a bad reaction, you don’t just write a check to increase the CGI budget and hope special effects cover up the plot holes. It means not demanding you gank a style of a successful movie and apply it to a wholly different franchise in hopes of snagging an unsuspecting public.

In other words… do what Marvel did.

DC has truly globally recognized properties in Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman. Second tier talent like Green Lantern and Flash have oodles of untapped potential. DC even boasts a far better villain list. The Chitauri were undeveloped screaming CGI props to be blown up. Darkseid’s parademons are too, but they serve a grander purpose. And Darkseid brings with him InterGang and a slew of lieutenants that add flavor to a generally one-note bowl of soup. The pieces are all on the table, it’s just a matter of taking the time to put them together instead of mashing and taping them. Here’s hoping DC takes the time to realize the potential they have – and make the choice not to squander it for a quick cash-grab.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander


Mike Gold: Nancy’s Tale

“The secret to Nancy’s success,” the classic story goes, “is that it takes as long to read it as it does to decide not to read it.”

When I heard that gag back in the 1970s, it was attributed to the great artist Wallace Wood. Chillingly, it’s possible it predates Woody’s career by decades. What somehow became synonymous with the bland and the banal started off as the offspring of a cheesecake girlie strip, Fritzi Ritz. It turns out Fritzi had this niece named Nancy who came to live with her. Being a gag strip, I do not believe the details of the demise of the spiky-haired girl’s parents were ever revealed, but it would be uncharitable to assume the spunky, independent girl murdered them in their sleep.

Nancy’s best friend was a Dead End Kids wannabe named Sluggo. Had Nancy shaved off her hair, enjoyed a sex-change operation, and donned a striped t-shirt, she would look exactly like her friend. So perhaps it was Sluggo who did the parents in after uncovering the results of a blood test.

Fritzi and Nancy lived in the nice part of town. Sluggo lived in the slums. For quite a time in the 1930s and, less so, thereafter, clearly what separated those neighborhoods was Wackyland. Had those adventures been published in the hippie era, we would have assumed writer/artist Ernie Bushmiller consumed a prolific quantity of LSD.

In fact, I am surprised a Nancy underground comic wasn’t published during those paisley days. Publisher/cartoonist/freedom fighter Denis Kitchen was, and probably still is, quite a fan of the stuff. He even produced a line of Nancy ties; I once wore the subtle power-tie version to a big-deal executive meeting at Warner Brothers, much to the chagrin of DC Comics publisher Paul Levitz.

Nonetheless, I suspect the secret of Nancy’s success was the decision to “dumb it down” for the general audience, a trick that saved Blondie’s ass during the previous decade. Remember, the only reason the even more surreal Krazy Kat endured throughout the ridiculously powerful Hearst chain was the fact that it was William Randolph Hearst’s favorite feature… and he signed the paychecks.

Despite its homogenization, Bushmiller produced a funny and often clever gag strip. The proof of this lies in the strips produced by others after Ernie died: even recycled old jokes looked pale and pathetic compared to the original. At its dullest moments during the later Bushmiller era, Nancy was sufficiently entertaining to maintain its role in the readers’ daily ritual at a time when comic strips gave subscribing newspapers their competitive edge. You know, back when they actually had to compete with other newspapers.

Fantagraphics Books has released a hefty tome reprinting Nancy’s mid-forties run, fronted by an introduction from Daniel Clowes. Given the feature’s undeserved reputation and the plethora of fine newspaper reprint books, I fear their Nancy Is Happy might get lost in the shuffle.

Nancy was good enough to keep our elders laughing through the Great Depression and World War II. Nancy is certainly good enough to keep us laughing through the 2012 elections.

Nancy Is Happy by Ernie Bushmiller • Edited by Kim Thompson • Fantagraphics Books, $24.99

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil