And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


Superman II (1980)

Superman (1978)

Superman vs. The Elite (2012)
Posers.

Posers.

Whenever I get sick of dealing with live action superhero films and the all-but-inevitable disappointment that entails, I look to animation and shout, “Save me.” Specifically Warner Brothers, who’ve looked down and whispered “No,” more times than not. That’s what happens when the marking department dictates what we’ll get, when. So given there’s a new (live action) Superman movie in production at the time of this writing, here comes the latest animated one, Superman vs. The Elite. Will it rescue us from the crushing mediocrity of things like Justice League: Doom or Batman: Year One? Or will it become what it hates in the name of The Greater Good?

Oh hell, you guys know me, I can’t keep a secret. Not only is it better than Doom and Year One, it’s the second best piece of Superman animation we’ve seen since the cancellation of his last cartoon series…the first being All-Star Superman, of course.

Not that you could tell from the fan reactions. The happy few who stoop to view animated features might be shocked to learn this, but some of my fellow Superfans found All-Star wanting. Few outright hate it, but it’s still a too-short adaption of an twelve issue miniseries, large chunks of which were excised to fit the marketing-mandated 76-minute run time. If you want to “premiere” your film on the Cartoon Network, seventy-six minutes is the perfect length. But as I’ve been saying for five damn years (at this point) arbitrary length restrictions won’t make your film any better. If the WB wanted to do that they’d tell Cartoon Network’s ad-buyers to fuck themselves and make something feature length. It’s not the 40s anymore, guys. You can have a Third Act that isn’t rushed. Continue reading



Justice League: Doom (2012)
Dutch angles!

Dutch angles!

…is the thirteenth straight-to-video DC animated superhero movie and the last one credited to Eisner Award-winning writer/producer Dwayne McDuffie, who passed beyond the Source Wall to join the fundamental forces of the multiverse on February 21, 2011. He will be sorely missed.

Especially since Doom is far from his best work, that being all those episodes of Cartoon Network’s Justice League show that weren’t written by Stan Berkowitz, Rich Fogel, or Bruce Timm. Together, that team did more to introduce superheroes to “normal” people than the last thirty years of comic book company presidents, all while working withing the constrictions of network television censorship regime. Their movies…I don’t know. They’ve been okay…but I’d only recommend four out of the thirteen to you fine people with any degree of seriousness. Doom could’ve been number five, and it almost was…until I made the mistake of thinking about it for more than two seconds at a stretch. Continue reading



All-Star Superman (2011)
Covershot!

Covershot!

Every once in a not-so-great while, comic book companies decide to annihilate decades of established continuity and set their famous characters back to Year Zero in the name of attracting new readers. Such publicity stunts will inevitably antagonize existing fans whose bad word of mouth will (theoretically) scare away those coveted new readers. So it was that, sometime around 1998, Scottish comics writer Grant Morrison teamed up with other Big Name writers Mark Waid, Mark Millar and Tom Peyer to pitch a complete revamp of Superman.

“We believe that the four of us understand the new face of Superman: a forward-looking, intelligent, enthusiastic hero retooled to address the challenges of the next thousand years.  The ultimate American icon revitalized for the new millennium as an aspirational figure, a role model for 21st Century global humanity.

“The Superman relaunch we’re selling bucks the trend of sweeping aside the work done by those who came immediately before.  Unlike the ‘cosmic reset’ revamps all too prevalent in current comics, our New Superman approach is an honest attempt to synthesize the best of all previous eras.  Our intention is to honor each of Superman’s various interpretations and to use internal story logic as our launching pad for a re-imagined, streamlined 21st century Man of Steel.” Continue reading



Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010)
"We've got to help her. She's the only one around with a head bigger than her arms."

"We've got to help her. She's the only one around here with a head bigger than her shoulder muscles."

Well bisect me with a light saber. Here I am, ready and willing to take a break from hating everything and review another superhero cartoon before the October Horror Movie season and DC Animation, in their infinite (sarcastic airquotes) “wisdom,” gave me this one. I really couldn’t be happier. Because its exactly half-bad.

Apocalypse is the direct sequel to last year’s Public Enemies, as you’ll hear from the Gotham City talk radio DJ in the precredit sequence. “A rash of meteor showers has lit up the country from coast to coast this week following the destruction of a giant Kryptonite asteroid by our own Dark Knight.” {More}



Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)

Hey, a cowboy actor made it. Why not Ol' Bald n' Evil?As you’ve no doubt guessed by now, my personal political views fall somewhere to the left of Mikhail Bakunin. So, as you’d expect, I experienced quite the nerdgasam back in the year 2000 when (through a convoluted story line tonight’s film rightly jettisons without the slightest nod) Lex Luthor became President of the D.C. Universe’s United States. Finally, I said to no one in particular, given that at the time I had no friends, someone in comics understands the f-ed up mess we’re in.

But all good things must come to an end, and since this is D.C. Comics, that “end” must engulf the entire world in some form of world-engulfing peril, preferably one stolen from the plot of a popular summer sci-fi/action movie. Because you can’t throw D.C.’s most insanely-powerful superheroes at just any-old idiotic inhabitant of the White House.

Or can you…? Here again, the Justice League TV series captured my heart by daring to actually ask this question several times to continually ass-kicking effect, only chickening out when it looked like their show might be canceled, necessitating the Climactic Battle restore the status quo. I’ve waited three years for a cartoon that dares to look into the actual nuts and bolts of superheroing during the Luthor Administration. All I can say is, I’m still waiting. In the meantime, at least we’ve got Public Enemies. {More}



Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010)

He's a saa-aad Batman...The day I discovered NOVA’s The Elegant Universe was a grand day at around this old Batcave o’ mine. I rejoiced that physicists had finally figured out what we comic book nerds have known for over fifty years: our world is but one of an infinity of universes, operating on parallel levels of what we so blithely call reality. Bully for you, Science. Welcome to the party.

As with so much else, superheroes had a large part in popularizing what was once the esoteric pipe dream of clever sci-fi authors. The Justice League first met their “evil” dopplegangers, the Crime Syndicate of America, back in 1964. And while those original Silver Age comics have…shall we say…mellowed…in their old age, I still respect the CSA’s original motivation for jumping dimensions: sheer boredom at the ease with which they’d conquered their own world. (with the exception of one Alexander “Lex” Luthor). The Justice League cartoon series updated and expanded up this plot to great effect in its second season two-parter “A Better World.” And while this Justice League cartoon was originally meant to be a transition into the series’ third season, life, and a tight production schedule, intervened. It still works as such, but feels oddly out of place coming so far down stream, after I (for one) thought Warner’s Animation department had run this idea into the ground. {More}



Superman Returns (2006)

"Nope, sorry. We're full up on codpieces today. Some other time."I’ve never been happy with the Man of Steel’s celluloid incarnations for the same reason cited by all the comics industry pros: the damn Boy Scout is a real chore to write, and a stone cold bitch to write well. Years of previous (mis)conceptions about just who and what he is don’t help at all. Neither does the fact that his world (by which I mean this world, of the 1930s) has moved on.

First there’s the Conflict Problem, both Internal and External. Superman’s external conflicts are often hilariously one-sided, while his internal ones have none of Batman’s brooding insanity, none of Peter Parker’s conflicting loyalties…he can’t even match Tony Stark’s problem with intimacy, since it’s not like Supes doesn’t have plenty of opportunities to get some. He appears, or is often written to appear, as a whole and hearty individual in-and-of himself, apart and above the other tortured souls populating his multiverse. And that seems to be okay for everyone involved with creating his adventures, including Bryan Singer. {More}



Justice League (2001)

Strike a pose.The Justice League of America, in its most rarefied form, represents a powerhouse of D.C. comics heaviest hitters, originally created as a marketing gimmick in 1960 by that great creator of gimmicks and Godhead of the silver age, the comics writer Gardner Fox. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

With the success The Batman/Superman Adventures in the late ’90s, and the continued dumbing down of Batman Beyond, the production team of Rich Fogel, Bruce Timm, and Paul Dini set to do the Next Logical Thing: get the fuck off the WB (sure didn’t do Buffy any harm) and throw wide the golden gates of their superhero universe. After all, if two heroes could make such a splash in the admittedly-small pond of American-produced superhero animation, think of what seven might do for the network lucky enough to carry it? {More}